He said it's not clear just how far radiation from such an accident would spread -- and what the potential health threats might be, CBS reported.
"At Chernobyl, it spread over large areas of Europe, and significant areas up to 100 miles downwind needed to be abandoned," he said. "But the conditions were somewhat different, and we aren't sure how far the radiation will be distributed this time."
Meanwhile, in Japan on Wednesday, authorities temporarily ordered the removal of emergency workers from the crippled Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear complex, about 140 miles north of Tokyo, after an increase in radiation was detected. Hours later, officials said they were preparing to send the workers back in, the Associated Press reported.
Japan's Chief Cabinet Secretary, Yukio Edano, said the workers, who had been soaking the reactors with seawater in a bid to stabilize their temperatures, had no choice but to pull back a safe distance from the most dangerous areas of the plant. Last Friday's catastrophic earthquake-triggered tsunami knocked out the plant's cooling systems and backup generators, triggering the crisis, the AP said.
An estimated 11,000 people are officially listed as dead or missing, and most officials believe the final death toll from the earthquake and tsunami will exceed 10,000 people, the news service reported.
For more on the risks of nuclear radiation, visit the University of Pittsburgh.
SOURCES: Jacqueline Williams, Ph.D., program director for radiation medicine, Center for Biophysical Assessment and Risk Management Following Irradiation, University of Rochester Medical Center, Rochester, N.Y.; Barry Rosenstein, Ph.D., professor of radiation oncology, Mt. Sinai Scho
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