California Radiation Fears: Q&A

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Bob Redell talks about reports a radiation plume is headed to California.

    The  nuclear crisis in Japan has many people in California worried about possible radiation exposure here on the West Coast.

    Japan is more than 5,000 miles away, but there is a jet stream that often makes a B-line directly across the Pacific toward California.

    The New York Times put together an animation of the radiation cloud that is headed our way and it shows something will arrive as early as Friday. Experts say any radiation that makes it those 5,000 miles will be minimal, and are not expecting any kind of health issue to be related to the fall out.

    The city of Vallejo put out a good question and answer release that has lots of government links for those who are still worried about the potential of exposure.

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    Q. What is the radiological consequence of the event in Japan for the U.S.?

    A. At this time, there is no indication that materials from the incidents in Japan have the potential to have any significant radiological effect on the U.S.

    Q. Are there any protective measures that residents in the U.S. should be considering?

    A. No, not given current information.

    Q. What is the Federal family, i.e., NRC-EPA-DOE, doing to monitor the radiological consequence of the event in Japan on the United States?

    A. The NRC is coordinating its actions with other Federal agencies as part of the U.S. government response. The NRC is examining all available information as part of the effort to analyze the event and understand its implications both for Japan and the United States.
    U.S. nuclear power plants have sensitive equipment to monitor the status of radiological conditions. Additionally, personnel at nuclear power plants have specific knowledge in radiological field monitoring techniques and could assist State and Federal personnel in environmental sampling activities, should that be necessary to evaluate public health and safety concerns. EPA has permanent stationary radiological monitoring stations on the West coast. In the event of a confirmed radiological release with a potential to impact the U.S., EPA is the Federal agency responsible for radiological monitoring. DOE would be responsible for aerial monitoring, should there be a confirmed radiological release.

    Q. How Can I Protect Myself During a Radiation Emergency?

    A. After a release of radioactive materials, local authorities will monitor the levels of radiation and determine what protective actions to take.
    The most appropriate action will depend on the situation. Tune to the local emergency response network or news station for information and instructions during any emergency.
    If a radiation emergency involves the release of large amounts of radioactive materials, you may be advised to “shelter in place,” which means to stay in your home or office; or you may be advised to move to another location.

    Q. Should I Take Potassium Iodide During a Radiation Emergency?

    A. Potassium iodide (KI) should only be taken in a radiation emergency that involves the release of radioactive iodine, such as an accident at a nuclear power plant or the explosion of a nuclear bomb. A “dirty bomb” most likely will not contain radioactive iodine.

     

    A person who is internally contaminated with radioactive iodine may experience thyroid disease later in life. The thyroid gland will absorb radioactive iodine and may develop cancer or abnormal growths later on. KI will saturate the thyroid gland with iodine, decreasing the amount of harmful radioactive iodine that can be absorbed.

     

    KI only protects the thyroid gland and does not provide protection from any other radiation exposure.  Some people are allergic to iodine and should not take KI. Check with your doctor about any concerns you have about potassium iodide.

    If you are advised to shelter in place, you should do the following:

    • Close and lock all doors and windows.
    • Turn off fans, air conditioners, and forced-air heating units that bring in fresh air from the outside. Only use units to recirculate air that is already in the building.
    • Close fireplace dampers.
    • If possible, bring pets inside.
    • Move to an inner room or basement.
    • Keep your radio tuned to the emergency response network or local news to find out what else you need to do.
    • If you are advised to evacuate, follow the directions that your local officials provide. Leave the area as quickly and orderly as possible. In addition –
    • Take a flashlight, portable radio, batteries, first-aid kit, supply of sealed food and water, hand-operated can opener, essential medicines, and cash and credit cards.
    • Take pets only if you are using your own vehicle and going to a place you know will accept animals. Emergency vehicles and shelters usually will not accept animals.

    For more information about evacuation, see the CDC fact sheet Facts About Evacuation During a Radiation Emergency.

    For more information about sheltering, see the CDC fact sheet Sheltering in Place During a Radiation Emergency or the American Red Cross fact sheet Shelter-in-Place.

    For more information about emergency response, check the following Web sites:

    For more information about KI, see the CDC fact sheet Potassium Iodide (KI) or check the following Web sites: