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Radiation From Japan's Nuke Disaster Unlikely to Threaten U.S., Experts Say
Date:3/16/2011

By Amanda Gardner
HealthDay Reporter

WEDNESDAY, March 16 (HealthDay News) -- Although remnants of the tsunami that devastated the nuclear complex in Japan did manage to reach America's shores, it's highly unlikely that any radiation from the unfolding disaster across the Pacific Ocean will make it to North America, experts say.

The chances of any radioactive plume reaching the United States are "close to zero," said Jacqueline Williams, program director for radiation medicine at the University of Rochester Medical Center's Center for Biophysical Assessment and Risk Management Following Irradiation.

"Obviously, what's happening [in Japan] is changing from moment to moment," Williams added, "but there seems to be very little in the way to fear."

Levels of radioactivity that have already been released in Japan "are very much dissipated, so by the time it gets to California or the U.S., it would be extremely low levels," agreed Barry Rosenstein, a professor of radiation oncology at Mt. Sinai School of Medicine in New York City.

The reason for that, simply, is that "Japan is a long way away," said Williams, who's also vice president of the Radiation Research Society.

While considerable amounts of radiation have escaped from the four damaged reactors in Japan -- and with experts predicting much more, perhaps soon -- any of that radiation would have to travel by air to North America, more than 5,000 miles away.

During that journey, said Williams, any radioactivity in the air would be dispersed and therefore greatly weakened.

"Just the sheer dilution factor, whether by water [nuclear plant workers in Japan have been flooding the damaged reactors with seawater in an effort to cool them] or air, it's not going to affect anyone here," she said.

And that would probably hold true "even if they [the Japanese] had the most catastrophic event, like a Chernobyl [in 1986 in the Ukraine] and you
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