Available Information Points to No Radiation Risk to U.S. From Damaged Japanese Plants

We are working with other U.S. government agencies to monitor the situation in Japan — and to monitor for radioactive releases and to be prepared to predict their path. Fortunately, all the available information at this time indicates weather conditions have taken the small releases from the Fukushima reactors out to sea away from the population.

And, importantly, given the thousands of miles between Japan and us – including Hawaii, Alaska, the U.S. territories and the U.S. West Coast – we are not expecting to experience any harmful levels of radioactivity here. We would like to repeat — we are not expecting to experience any harmful levels of radioactivity here.

As expected, we are getting a lot of questions from people who are seeking information about developments at Japanese reactors. We understand the need for information, but we are not able to comment on the situation. It is an ongoing crisis for the Japanese and they have primary responsibility for handling it and communicating about it. But please stay tuned to this blog for the latest information we can provide.

Thank you for reading our blog. Remember to look at yesterday’s post about how you can help Japan in this crisis with donations.

Eliot Brenner
Public Affairs Director

Author: Moderator

Public Affairs Officer for the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission

27 thoughts on “Available Information Points to No Radiation Risk to U.S. From Damaged Japanese Plants”

  1. Thank you, Lee!
    You expressed exactly what is going on in my head an in that of millions of Americans too, I am sure.
    I would like to add that I am expecting much more for my tax dollars: Several US government agencies are equipped with the latest detection and imaging technologies. I would like to see some of the hard data transpire to the public, i.e., the size and shape of the plumes, their exact chemical composition at different levels above the sea, the fallout on the West Coast after all this rain, etc. Even if fission products like iodine-129 or cesium-135 might be present at extremely low concentrations in the air, we should not underestimate the capacity of certain organs – such as the thyroid gland – to accumulate and concentrate these isotopes on a daily basis, over weeks and months…. We do not know how the situation in Japan is going to evolve; it seems therefore reasonable to ask hospitals to start monitoring the radioactivity of thyroid glands in patients? But, most importantly, the public deserves to be informed properly. Words are not enough at this point.

  2. I agree with Worries in SF Area mom. Full transparency would be very much appreciated now. It seems that the news media, government agencies, etc. are downplaying the amount of radiation that has reached California. Downplaying and not giving specific information. For instance, with the research that I’ve been doing (I’m just a non-academic), it seems that the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO), an arm of the United Nations, was able to detect radioactive materials in Sacramento a couple of days ago, when none of the California monitors, set up by government and special interest agencies, were able to detect the radioactive isotopes. What I’ve been able to find is that CTBTO has detection instruments with a detection level of 1 part per billion, where all the other agencies are using instruments with detection levels of one part per million. Is this the case?

    Also, what happened to the plume and where is it now? Is it still in California or did it move to other parts of Western United States? I can’t find any updated information on the plume anymore.

    Another question: Shouldn’t there be another plume heading our way? And if so, when and what is the projected route? The plume California received the past few days was from the first days of Japan’s nuclear crisis. Last Thursday, March 18, PST, is when radiation levels spiked to the highest levels so far, per CNN reports. So, isn’t it another watch and wait in another 5-7 days from last Thursday?

    Last question: Everyone (doctors, scientists, government officials, etc.) are saying that the radiation levels in California have not spiked and we should not be concerned because we are exposed to radiation everyday. But are the radioactive isotopes that we are being exposed to have the same effect as what we are exposed to daily (via the sun, cosmic radiation, etc?), It seems to me that they are markedly different isotopes and humans were not meant to be exposed to them. Please clarify. Everyone is treating the exposure to all these isotopes the same. I understand the amounts are miniscule, but I would like more detailed information. Thank you very much.

  3. How about the radiation risk to Taiwan?? Will you reporte the levels of radioactivity in Taiwan or other country? Cause I think some gorverment will hide the information or minimize the exposure level to people. So if you can report the newest situation of the radiation, it would be very useful for us. Thank you!

  4. Moderator,

    I am a retired Nuclear Design Engineer and spent almost two decades on the Emergency Response team at the power station where I last worked. I am highly desirous to find out the unfiltered news/bulletins coming from plant Fukushima. The news chanels distort or otherwise bungle the factoids they put on air. Is there a reliable news source that I may access from my home computer? INPO and WANO are useless in this regards.

  5. Teri,
    There are side effects from KI pills. You should not take them unless indicated by a Doctor or responsible public official (i.e. NRC, FEMA, etc.). There are too many “chicken littles” getting air time by claiming the situation to be worse than it is. Besides, why exhaust a source of medications that may be needed by the Japanese people themselves?

  6. PLEASE DON’T HIDE OR MINIMIZE EXPOSURE LEVEL ESTIMATES FOR WEST COAST!! I have 3 children under 6 years old and I can send them to live with family in Minnesota if you give our family notice and don’t hide information.
    Given the documented leaks and the current risk of full meltdown in at least one reactor, as well as the scientifically known 7 day direct wind patterns from Japan to Northern California, can a NRC scientist please post the official Plume computer data models showing wind patterns and calculated atmospheric dispersion with full radation exposure calculations? Please do this similarly to the NRC for advisory to US Citizens living in northern Japan, WITH SPECIFIC EXPOSURE ESTIMATES. Even if these are low, it would be useful to have transparancy on this issue.
    Also, could the NRC please create a credible peer reviewed site with Plume models and exposure estimates so that other credable scientists from major government agencies and universities can comment with full public transparency?

  7. Given the risk of full meltdown and the 7 day direct wind patterns from Japan to northern california, an an expert please post Plume computer data models and radation exposure calculations similar to the 50 mile calculation posted for northern Japan. Even if these turn out to be low, it would be useful to have transparancy on this issue.

  8. What I have pieced together is the backup generators kicked in after the earthquake in Japan. When the wave of water hit the nuclear facility it knocked out the generators which were running the pumps to cool down the reactors. Typically the generators are in buildings protected from the environment. The tanks are outside either above or below ground. All fuel tanks are vented to the atmosphere so pressure does not build up. The vents can allow water into the tanks. Since water is heavier than oil, it sinks to the bottom displacing the oil. Once enough water reaches the pick up line, the generator will suck in water immediately killing the engine. Pick up lines are plumbed several inches off the bottom so the entire inventory can be utilized. The problem with this is it is located in the worse place for fuel quality. If a floating suction line was used in the tanks, then the fuel would be delivered from the middle of the tank. This would provide the cleanest fuel available from the tank. It would also provide more time to react to a breach since several feet of fuel takes longer to displace than several inches. The airline industry requires floating suction in their tanks. It might be a good lesson to require floating suction at critical facilities as well.

  9. It has been said that there are open holes in the nuclear reactor 4. So how can you say the “design of the Japanese reactors and the way events have unfolded give us confidence in saying radiation at harmful levels will not reach the U.S.” They say radiation levels are 10 times usual in Tokyo right now. “Confidence”? Would you breath that air? Radiation polluted wind streams are blowing from Japan to the westcoast. Your statements seem ingenuous and aimed to stifle fears instead of reporting the truth. Malarkey.

  10. Radioactivity from Japan
    On the radio this morning (3/15) it was reported that the “experts” (not sure if they are from the NRC) say that there is no chance that radioactive particles would carry over from Japan to Hawaii and the U.S. Mainland. However, remember the Japanese balloon bombs launched during WWII? They were sent up from Japan and rode the jet stream over to the U.S. Mainland. Are we forgetting something here??

  11. Can we (the Pacific Coast) be given advice as to what actions to take if a full meltdown occurs? I understand models predict a seven day delay, however three reactors have been leaking radiation for a number of days now – and it looks as if reactor #2 can undergoe a full meltdown at any time. Should we, in that case, evacuate the Pacific Coast/Stay indoors/Take KI? Thank you for any information you can provide.
    -Worried Californian

  12. NRC is a government agency and this is as about as accurate information as you’ll get. This web site recommended by USGS through their press room

  13. I live in Washington DC, and on my local news tonight, there was a piece about nuclear fallout. They recommended iodine tablets for anyone at risk for exposure. I’m reading up on whether or not this is a safe preventative for myself.

  14. Thanks for reassuring me harmful radiation will not reach the United States, however my wife is very worried and if there was some kind of monitor I could get for her that might ease her mind it would be helpful. Thanks.

  15. Chairman Jaczko gave a briefing to the media today at the White House. As soon as we have a transcript, we’ll post a link. The Chairman is also scheduled to testify before the House Subcommittee on Energy and Power and Subcommittee on Environment and the Economy on Wednesday morning, so look for coverage then.

  16. The type and design of the Japanese reactors and the way events have unfolded give us confidence in saying radiation at harmful levels will not reach the U.S.

  17. The type and design of the Japanese reactors and the way events have unfolded give us confidence in saying radiation at harmful levels will not reach the U.S. There is a lot of erroneous information in the media and online about this event and its ramifications. One plume model in particular is especially egregious and totally bogus. We urge you to continue to seek information from credible sources, including the NRC and other federal agencies.

  18. Can you give us updates on whether the west coast of the U.S. (ie., California and Oregon) will be affected by the radioactive releases that are happening in Japan? It seems the radiation levels are higher than it was on March 13th and I don’t know if the wind patterns have changed. Other websites have shown that radiioactive particles would have arrived on the west coast of California and Oregon by March 14th – today.
    Thank you.

  19. NRC is totally responsible to regularly update US citizens about the possible effects on the west coast (and eastward from there) of our country from the crippled Japanese nukes.

    We know which way the wind blows and it blows from Japan to our west coast and beyond. We need regular updates. To see that you haven’t updated us since yesterday is horrible. And to read that you don’t intend to provide your countryfolk with the frequent info they need to remain as calm as possible, and as effective as possible if we do need to take precaution or other actions, is even worse.

  20. It would be a great service to the nation and the nuclear community if NRC could hold regular press conferences giving reliable information to the public. Anti-nuclear propaganda has been hogging the media since, to defame nuclear power and more than anything create unwanted fear among the public. I have only seen non-nuclear, non-scientific, dooms-day psychos showing up on popular TV news channels and trying to talk as though they were nuclear subject matter experts scaring the public. I strongly think that the defense of nuclear power and its safety culture lies evenly distributed between the community and NRC.

  21. Actually, the information in NRC Press Release 11-046 is factually incorrect. It is not “thousands of miles” from Japan to the US. For example, the great circle distance for KUH-ATU (Kushiro, Japan – Attu, Alaska) is 1492 miles, ie less than 1.5 thousand (not thousands) miles. For a body whose specialty is nuclear physics, getting the distance between two points on a sphere incorrect is a little concerning. What am I missing?

  22. In the aftermath of the Japanese disaster, if I was worried about nuclear radiation, what personal monitoring devices are available? I see things listed on websites with prices ranging from about $20 to $500. Is there something simple and hopefully inexpensive I can buy to be reassured of not being exposed to dangerous amounts of radiation? Thanks in advance for your reply.

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