California 'closely monitoring' Japan nuclear leak

Mar 13, 2011

California is closely monitoring efforts to contain leaks from a quake-damaged Japanese nuclear plant, a spokesman said Saturday, as experts said radiation could be blown out across the Pacific.

While officials downplayed any immediate danger, the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission deployed two experts to Japan, where the Fukushima plant, which was rocked by a large explosion earlier in the day in the aftermath of Japan's strongest-ever earthquake.

"At present there is no danger to California. However we are monitoring the situation closely in conjunction with our federal partners," Michael Sicilia, spokesman for California Department of Public Health, told AFP.

"California does have radioactivity in place for air, water and the food supply and can enhance that monitoring if a danger exists," he added.

He was speaking as Japanese authorities moved to calm fears of a meltdown and said a huge explosion Saturday had not ruptured the container surrounding the reactor, although there had already been some radiation leakage prior to the explosion.

Experts have suggested that, if there were a reactor meltdown or major leak at Fukushima, the cloud would likely be blown out east across the Pacific, towards the US West Coast.

"The wind direction for the time being seems to point the (nuclear) pollution towards the Pacific," said Andre-Claude Lacoste of the French Nuclear Safety Authority, briefing journalists in Paris on the Japanese crisis.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission meanwhile said it has sent two experts to Japan, and has been in regular contact with Japanese officials about the crisis.

"We have some of the most expert people in this field in the world working for the NRC and we stand ready to assist in any way possible," commission chairman Gregory Jaczko said in a statement announcing the deployment.

He said the pair were experts in boiling water nuclear reactors and are part of a broader US aid team sent to the .

Earlier the NRC said it was "examining all available information as part of the effort to analyze the event and understand its implications both for Japan and the United States."

While US nuclear experts acknowledged the seriousness of Japan's reactor crisis, some stressed that taking steps in the United States such as distributing iodine tablets -- which prevent iodine 131 from being absorbed into the body -- would be "vastly premature."

"It's a big ocean. These (radiation) releases are essentially going to be at ground level," said Ken Bergeron, a physicist who has worked on nuclear reactor accident simulation.

"We should not confuse it with health issues in the United States."

Japan is roughly 5,000 miles (8,000 kilometers) from the US West Coast.

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User comments : 18

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guiding_light
not rated yet Mar 13, 2011
The radioactive elements like I-131, Sr-90 and Cs-137 are all quite heavy, expect them to settle very quickly to ground level near the reactor.
ryggesogn2
1.8 / 5 (10) Mar 13, 2011
Instead of taking an opportunity to educate people on the safety features in place on the Japanese reactors and the near impossibility of a radiation leak that will affect Japan, let alone CA, let's worry about something that has zero chance of occurring.
Moebius
2.5 / 5 (8) Mar 14, 2011
I seriously doubt there is no danger and it isn't even close to near impossible. Reactors need cooling and they need power to work safely and shut down without melting.

What the idiots who run this country aren't seeing is that we have built, in our usual short sighted manner, many nuclear power plants right on both our shores and they are vulnerable to future tsunamis that are inevitable. The east coast has the most and a mega tsunami will hit it eventually when the island of La Palma collapses off Africa. When that happens all our east coast shore nuclear plants will be destroyed, along with all the shore cities. That tsunami will make the Japanese one look like a ripple in a kiddie pool. La Palma has collapsed before and it has a major chunk on the verge of collapse now just waiting for a trigger
Moebius
2.5 / 5 (8) Mar 14, 2011
And yes I know some doubt the La Palma scenerio. That doesn't change the facts. A relatively small tsunami wreaked havoc on the Japanese power plants because they were on the shore. We have built many more on our shores and tsunamis happen. Anyone that thinks we have seen the worst of what nature can throw at us is a fool.
Bog_Mire
2 / 5 (4) Mar 14, 2011
Yep, I think building N-Plants near coast lines is fairly short sighted. Reports that fuel rods at the No. 2 reactor are fully exposed - I'd say that is something to worry about sooner or later. Don't know about you Ryggesogn2, but I wouldnt be keen on been in the vicinity of that for too long
Calenur
3 / 5 (2) Mar 14, 2011
What upsets me is the effect this will have on America's already distorted views of nuclear energy. That eternal downer, Joe Lieberman, is already running his suck about halting nuclear power plant production, and CNN is fear-mongering by posting their completely inflammatory headline "Are US Plants Safe?." Can we learn from Japan? Yes. Is the data applicable to all recators in the states? No. I guess it's too much to ask for an even-keeled approach.
ryggesogn2
2.3 / 5 (6) Mar 14, 2011
Reactor designs that use He as a working fluid have been around for quite some time. Radioactive He decays quite rapidly so any that escapes is quite safe.
Of course no one wants to discuss the radioactive fallout from coal fired plants. Coal has significant quantities of radioactive isotopes that are released downwind and accumulate in ash.
Bottom line is if people want to maintain there technology level, power is required and there are few choices in the immediate future.
BTW, the USS Reagan supporting rescue efforts is nuclear powered as are all US submarines and carriers.
Modernmystic
1 / 5 (3) Mar 14, 2011
I seriously doubt there is no danger and it isn't even close to near impossible. Reactors need cooling and they need power to work safely and shut down without melting.


Read up on the subject...THEN post about it...

There is virtually ZERO possibility of any radioactive material from these plants making it outside the containment vessel.

You heard it here first...
Tainted
not rated yet Mar 15, 2011
Off topic, but to reply to the guy ranting about a Tsunami hitting the East/Nuclear plants. To quote:
However, the Tsunami Society (Pararas-Carayannis, 2002), published a statement stating "... We would like to halt the scaremongering from these unfounded reports..." The major points raised in this report include:
The claim that half of Cumbre Vieja dropped 4 m during the 1949 eruption is erroneous, and contradicted by physical evidence.
No evidence was sought or shown that there is a fault line separating a "block" of La Palma from the other half.
Physical evidence shows a 4 km long line in the rock, but the models assumed a 25 km (16 mi) line, for which no physical evidence was given. Further, there is no evidence shown that the 4 km long line extends beyond the surface.
There has never been an Atlantic megatsunami in recorded history.
hush1
1 / 5 (1) Mar 15, 2011
Wolfgang Renneberger:
"What's happening now exceeds any security measures ever planned for in the construction or taken for Nuclear Reactors"

Of course he is German. And no one can take German science or scientists seriously.

And, of course, all fingers are still burning from Chernobyl.
Tokyo is only the 15th world's largest city.
All is calm on the western front.

http:://www.sueddeutsche.de/video/10872.html
yyz
not rated yet Mar 15, 2011
@Tainted, Moebius

You might be interested in a page maintained by the Maine Geological Survey that discusses in some detail tsunamis in the Atlantic Ocean: http://www.maine....an05.htm

Besides a discussion (and relevant links) on the scientific debate over a possible Cumbre Vieja megatsunami, a historical recounting of Atlantic-Caribbean tsunamis (from both earthquakes and volcanoes) and the geodynamics of Atlantic-Caribbean tsunamis are presented.

(I was originally looking for info on the 1755 Lisbon earthquake-tsunami and there are several links here with details, as there are for several other Atlantic and Caribbean tsunamis)
Moebius
2 / 5 (4) Mar 17, 2011
I seriously doubt there is no danger and it isn't even close to near impossible. Reactors need cooling and they need power to work safely and shut down without melting.


Read up on the subject...THEN post about it...

There is virtually ZERO possibility of any radioactive material from these plants making it outside the containment vessel.

You heard it here first...


You read up on it. Heard of Chernobyl? It blew up. Containment can't hold a full melt down either. An earthquake can break containment. I worked in one, did you?
Modernmystic
2 / 5 (4) Mar 17, 2011
You read up on it. Heard of Chernobyl?


Since this reactor isn't the same design as Chernobyl it doesn't matter if I did or didn't. Might as well ask me if I know anything about how coat hangers are made...

It blew up.


And tragically killed 33 people. As bad as a nuclear accident can get.

Containment can't hold a full melt down either.


Wrong.

An earthquake can break containment.


True, but that simply didn't happen in this case so why worry about it?

I worked in one, did you?


Did you sleep in a Holiday Inn express last night too?
Bog_Mire
2.3 / 5 (3) Mar 18, 2011
Personally, I think coat hangers are more up you alley.I have supreme confidence in your solid grasp of coat hanger fundamentals. Please carry on.
Modernmystic
1 / 5 (3) Mar 18, 2011
Personally, I think coat hangers are more up you alley.I have supreme confidence in your solid grasp of coat hanger fundamentals. Please carry on.


I'm sorry I can't accept that compliment as I'm unsure of your ability to evaluate the competence of any other human being on any subject...as such even coat hangers would be far outside you're strikingly meager intellect to aptly appraise.

I notice your "response" to my post was ad-hom. I know it's very silly of me to ask, but did you have any kind of facts or logic to back up your assertions? Or was all the time you spent "working at a nuclear plant" wasted on nose picking or solitaire when the boss wasn't looking?
BillFox
Mar 19, 2011
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
Moebius
1 / 5 (2) Mar 20, 2011
MM: Containment is nothing more than a thick concrete half dome, not steel like the other article about meltdowns says here. The reactor is steel and a meltdown can melt that. The reactor sits in the bottom of the dome. Why would you think a full melt down couldn't burn through concrete when it can melt steel? You think concrete is more impervious than steel? You are the one that needs to stop staying at Holiday Inn's.
Modernmystic
1 / 5 (2) Mar 21, 2011
MM: Containment is nothing more than a thick concrete half dome, not steel like the other article about meltdowns says here. The reactor is steel and a meltdown can melt that. The reactor sits in the bottom of the dome. Why would you think a full melt down couldn't burn through concrete when it can melt steel? You think concrete is more impervious than steel? You are the one that needs to stop staying at Holiday Inn's.


It's not just concrete that's in the bottom of those containment vessels, there's also water moderated with boron. Moreover concrete doesn't melt. It decomposes and as long as it has a moderator it won't breech. Even if it doesn't it won't breech unless the temperatures reach several thousand degrees...so YES concrete is "stronger" than steel in this case. You moron.

I thought it was common knowledge that concrete and ceramics withstand MUCH higher temperatures than steel, I guess not.
Modernmystic
1 / 5 (2) Mar 21, 2011
(cont) Also let's not forget that when the corium breeches reactor and falls to the bottom of the containment vessel it is NO LONGER CRITICAL. IOW it's not going to be generating a lot of heat at this point. What makes it critical is its proximity to itself. Since its molten at this point and pouring into water blasting into steam it's going to be spread all over hell within the containment vessel. It's not going to be the 5000 degrees it was when it melted through the steel...