The PJ Tatler

Japan: Nuclear agency raises crisis assessment; plume reaches US, no threat to public health

The latest:

BBC reports that Japan’s nuclear agency raised the assessment of the severity of the crisis from level 4 to 5 on a 7-level international scale for nuclear accidents, matching an earlier assessment by the head of France’s Nuclear Safety Authority Tuesday. Level 5 is used to describe an accident with “wider consequences.” The move puts it on the same level as the 1979 Three Mile Island nuclear accident in the US, and two levels below the Chernobyl meltdown.

Meanwhile, soldiers from Japan’s Self Defense Force sprayed water onto the No. 3 reactor Friday using fire trucks and water cannons, continuing Thursday’s efforts to keep spent fuel rods covered so they do not release massive amounts of radiation into the atmosphere, reports Japanese broadcaster NHK.

Reports this morning indicate that the plume from the Daichi plant has reached the US west coast. But it’s no threat.

“We don’t know how much radiation is going to be exposed, but by the time anything is released and the distance that it has to travel, the amount would be extremely diluted,” explained Dr. Steven Seung with the Gamma Knife Center of Oregon.

So much so, Dr. Seung said, that we won’t even get measureable amounts along the West Coast.

“If you take a drop of arsenic and drop it in a pool of water, and you take a drop of the pool water, the amount of it will not be lethal compared to taking a straight drop of arsenic,” Seung explained as an analogy.

He added that Americans get more radiation on a daily basis from the sun.

“You would get more radiation exposure flying roundtrip from here to New York on a plane,” he added. That is because the higher we are to the sun, the greater the exposure.