The failure of three nuclear reactors in Japan has prompted talks in the United States about the risk the country runs of being exposed to radioactive particles emanating from the facility. According to experts, the general public can rest assured that little to no such particles will reach North America.
At this point, the immediate risk is minimal, say authorities, adding that most of the particles heading for the United States will most likely fall into the Pacific Ocean before reaching Alaska or the continental West Coast.
Jeff Masters, of the company Weather Underground, used a modeling system compiled by the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to determine the path that airborne radioactive particles would take as they depart Japan.
According to the data, it would take about a week for the potentially-hazardous clouds to reach the US and eastern Siberia. But the formations would have to pass through some rigorous mechanisms that nature has devised to keep itself clean.
“Such a long time spent over water will mean that the vast majority of the radioactive particles will settle out of the atmosphere or get caught up in precipitation and rained out,” Masters argues.
“It is highly unlikely that any radiation capable of causing harm to people will be left in the atmosphere after seven days and 2000-plus miles of travel distance,” the expert goes on to say.
The results of this simulation are in tune with the official opinions issued by the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) on March 13.
Officials with the organization said that, “given the thousands of miles between the two countries, Hawaii, Alaska, the U.S. Territories and the U.S. West Coast are not expected to experience any harmful levels of radioactivity.”
The nuclear fallout originates at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power station, which is located some 250 kilometers (155 miles) away from the capital Tokyo. The facility was severely affected by the 9.0-magnitude earthquake that struck Japan on March 11, Wired reports.
The tremor and the tsunami it triggered ran over the sea walls surrounding the power plant, and destroyed cooling system pumps responsible for bringing water onto the fuel rods in the reactors.
At this point, emergency responders are using fire pumps to flood the reactors with seawater, but a partial meltdown of the cores is already taking place. Though a full meltdown is unlikely, radioactive particles are already being released in the atmosphere.
Some US citizens have already been exposed to radiation. The Pentagon announced that the crew of the aircraft carrier Ronald Regan got a month's worth of radiation in a single hour, as their ship sailed the Pacific Ocean.