Radiation Heading for U.S.


Earthquakes and droughts are bad enough. Now add radiation to the list of West Coast troubles. Radiation is heading for the West Coast of the United States as a result of the Fukushima nuclear disaster in 2011. The Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster occurred as a result of an earthquake, which triggered devastating tsunamis off the coast of Japan.

Scientists claim the radiation will be in low levels and is expected to reach West Coast waters as soon as April. Experts also say, however, that these low levels would not be unsafe for humans or the environment. Scientists also caution, however, that more monitoring is necessary to ensure there is no threat to public safety.

Images of March 11, 2011 are still burned into the people of Japan and the world. That is when a magnitude 9 earthquake occurred off the coast of Japan. The resulting tsunami had waves nearly 140 feet high. About 15,000 people were killed in the event and another 6,000 were hurt.

The event caused power to be lost to the cooling pumps at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant complex. There were meltdowns affecting three reactors.

Tokyo Eclectic Power Co., the firm which operates the power plant, confessed for the first time last July that  a reactor was dripping tainted underground water into the ocean. The facility is on the east coast of Japan north of Tokyo. Scientists fear that the plant is covering up more potential bad news about radiation leakage.

A scientific report saying that there was a degree of Cesium 134 in the waters of Alaska, which ties the source to Fukushima. Scientists expect the radiation to reach north of Seattle first and then slowly creep down the west coast of the United States. The radiation is expected to decay over time. The levels are considered very low.

Experts are already testing water samples off the coast of Oregon.

Radiation is not the only ill stemming from the earthquake and tsunami to reach the United States. Debris from the catastrophe began arriving in the U.S. after a slow crawl along the Pacific Ocean. Washington and Oregon were affected the most.

Japan is still recovering from the 2011 earthquake, which its prime minister said was the most severe crisis to take place in that country since World War II, some 64 years ago.

Entire towns were wiped out. More than 275,000 people were evacuated to emergency shelters. Some 2.5 million households lost electricity and some 1.4 million households lost water for a time. Search teams scoured hundreds of miles of Japanese coastline looking for survivors.

Scientists say that the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster was the biggest nuclear event since Chernobyl in 1986 releasing nearly 30% of Chernobyl’s radiation. The cleanup process is expected to take many years, if not decades. No deaths were ever reported as a result of radiation at Fukushima but 300,000 people were evacuated from the area.

The World Health Organization says that evacuees were exposed to very low levels or radiation and that no health related illnesses were anticipated. Persons living closest to the plant were the most exposed and WHO does add that there is a small possibility that in later years some persons might develop cancers.

Some experts have also questioned why Japan would have a nuclear facility in the spot where it is located since it lies in an active seismic zone. Scientists worry that the facility does not have the capability of resisting major earthquakes.

In the meantime, West Coast residents can expect some radiation to be headed to the U.S.

By Jim McCullaugh


USA Today

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