First Japanese radioactive particles reach U.S. West Coast

Daily Mail
18.03.2011
By Daily Mail Reporter

First Japanese radioactive particles reach U.S. West Coast but UN officials claim they’re a ‘billion times’ beneath danger levels

U.S. President Barack Obama has appealed for calm after a UN agency predicted that a nuclear plume from Japan is set to hit the West Coast today.

Tiny amounts of radioactive particles believed to have come from the plant were detected on the U.S. West Coast on Friday morning, two diplomatic sources told the Associated Press and Reuters news agencies.

Overheating fuel rods are exposed to the elements through a huge hole in a reactor building wall at the destroyed Fukushima nuclear plant. Radiation is streaming into the atmosphere from the used uranium rods at one reactor, after a 45ft deep storage pool made to keep them stable boiled dry in a fire.

The diplomats, who have access to UN radiation tracking, were citing readings from one of its California-based measuring stations. They asked for anonymity because the Vienna-based Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization does not make its data public.

‘Even a single radioactive atom can cause them to measure something,’ one of the sources said. ‘This is more or less what we have seen in the Sacramento station.’

President Obama said no dangerous levels of radiation are expected to reach the U.S. as Japan runs out of time to prevent what officials are calling ‘another Chernobyl’.
Mr Obama spoke as officials in Dallas denied reports that radiation had been detected on passengers landing there from Japan, and Chicago refused to confirm claims passengers tested positive for radiation at O’Hare airport.

But there are even fears particles from the cloud could continue across the U.S. and onto Europe.

Particles spewing from the stricken plant at Fukushima have already been traced on planes arriving in the U.S. from the disaster-torn country.

With terrified passengers packing Tokyo airport after scores of governments, including the U.S., advised their citizens to flee, the fear of radiation arriving on flights from Japan is set to increase.

Meanwhile in America, worried citizens are trying to protect themselves against the nuclear fallout with gas masks and anti-radiation tablets after U.S. Surgeon General Regina Benjamin warned them to ‘be prepared’ for harmful radiation. Some are even buying pet shelters with gas filters.

Mr Obama said he does not expect any harmful levels of radiation to reach the U.S. and Homeland Security chief Janet Napolitano said yesterday that no harmful levels of radiation have reached the U.S.

It also emerged yesterday that the Environmental Protection Agency has upped its number of radiation monitors in locations on the West Coast.

The UN has predicted that a nuclear plume from Japan could reach islands off the Alaskan coast, and southern California by today.

The agency has not yet responded to queries on whether it has detected any increased levels of radiation in the U.S.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection spokesman Cherise Miles told CBS the agency is ’specifically assessing the potential for radiological contamination associated with the ongoing impact of the earthquake and tsunami to Japan’s nuclear facilities.’

On Thursday it emerged that the United Nations has predicted that a nuclear plume from a crisis-hit reactor in Japan could drift across the Pacific and over the U.S. by today.

The chilling forecast came as the U.S. began evacuating Americans out of Japan amid escalating fears that the quake-ravaged country is facing disaster.

Workers at the devastated power station are continuing their desperate battle to prevent a complete meltdown which some fear could be as bad as Chernobyl.

The latest pictures show a whole wall missing from the building housing reactor number four.

Inside, a green crane normally used to move spent fuel rods into the storage pool can be seen.

Underneath the crane, but not seen in the picture, is the 45ft deep spent fuel storage pool which has boiled dry.

Japan’s nuclear safety agency today raised the rating of the Fukushima¬† accident from four to five on a seven level scale.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano said Tokyo is asking the U.S. government for help and that the two are discussing the specifics. ‘We are coordinating with the U.S. government as to what the U.S. can provide and what people really need,’ he said.

A U.S. military fire truck was used to help spray water into Unit 3 of the plant, although the vehicle was reportedly driven by Japanese workers. The vehicle was used alongside six Japanese military fire trucks normally used to extinguish fires at plane crashes.

Nuclear experts have been saying for days that Japan was underplaying the crisis’ severity. It is now on a par with the Three Mile Island accident in Pennsylvania in 1979. Only the explosion at Chernobyl in 1986 has topped the scale.

Attempts to quell the overheating plant with waterbombs from helicopters yesterday failed and despite the army pelting the site with water cannon, radiation levels rose higher. Engineers are also working to restore power to the coolant pumping system knocked out by the tsunami.

There was a potential breakthrough when engineers succeeded in connecting a power line to Reactor 2. This should enable them to restore electricity to the cooling pumps needed to prevent meltdown. But it is not certain it will work after suffering extensive damage.

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