Radiation From Japan Is Headed for California…But Don’t Worry


Before you freak out over the words “radioactive plume” hitting Southern California, know that any radiation from the Fukushima nuclear plant in Japan will be diluted and, via the New York Times, “at worst, would have extremely minor health consequences in the United States, even if hints of it are ultimately detectable.” (As a reference point, radiation from Chernobyl also hit the West Coast in about 10 days, in “measurable but minuscule” levels.)

While this is still to some extent worrisome, particularly as workers struggle to contain the plant and its impact on Japan and the world, we repeat,

On Sunday, the United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission said it expected that no “harmful levels of radioactivity” would travel from Japan to the United States “given the thousands of miles between the two countries.”

This information is based on the patterns of Pacific winds at the time of projection, which means that the path could change with the weather. But given the prediction, the plume would head from Japan to Southern California and “the American Southwest, including Nevada, Utah and Arizona” — and then eastward.

We repeat, again,

The chairman of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Gregory B. Jaczko, said Monday that the plume posed no danger to the United States. “You just aren’t going to have any radiological material that, by the time it traveled those large distances, could present any risk to the American public,” he said in a White House briefing.

In California, officials are warning people not to take potassium iodide as a precaution against possible radiation exposure.

“Residents who ingest potassium iodide out of concern of possible exposure from this situation are doing something which is not only ineffective, but could also cause side effects,” said Jonathan E. Fielding, MD, MPH, Director of Public Health and Health Officer. “If a need should arise for residents to start taking potassium iodide to guard against effects of radiation exposure, the Los Angeles County Public Health Department — along with other local, state and federal agencies — will inform the public. We do not anticipate this need.”

Of course, people are doing it anyway.

Now, let’s get back to worrying about what’s happening in Japan.

Scientists Project Path of Radiation Plume [NYT]