"If There Were a Reactor Meltdown or Major Leak at Fukushima, the Radioactive Cloud Would Likely be Blown Out ... Towards the US West Coast"

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Agence-France Presse notes:

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.

 

***

 

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

 

***

 

Experts have
suggested that, if there were a reactor meltdown or major leak at
Fukushima, the radioactive 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.

 

***

 

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."

The winds could shift at any time, blowing radiation into Tokyo or other parts of Japan.

However, even if the prevailing winds remain off-shore - towards California and Washington - those American states are still a long way away. As AFP notes:

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.

But while the great distances make the risk of radiation exposure to Californians and Washingtonians small, it is not zero.

For example, pollution from Chinese coal factories routinely hits California. For example, Mongabay noted in 2008:

Previous
studies have documented that dust from Asia — especially from deserts
and industrial regions of China — routinely crosses the Pacific Ocean on
prevailing winds to sully the air over the western U.S.

And see this and this.

As as the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory wrote last December:

About
a third of the airborne lead particles recently collected at two sites
in the San Francisco Bay Area came from Asia, a finding that underscores
the far-flung impacts of air pollution and heralds a new way to learn
more about its journey across vast distances.

In a
first-of-its-kind study, scientists from the U.S. Department of Energy’s
Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and the California Air Resources
Board tracked variations in the amount of lead transported across the
Pacific over time.

***

It’s well known that particles and
other aerosols cover long distances through the Earth’s atmosphere. But
the details of this transport, such as that of the lead particles’
7,000-mile journey from the smokestacks of China to the west coast of
North America, are largely unknown.