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Trace Amounts of Radiation Reach California; No Health Risk, Experts Say
Date:3/19/2011

and the U.S. West Coast are not expected to experience any harmful levels of radioactivity," the agency said on its Web site.

Still, not everyone is so sanguine.

Dr. Ira Helfand, a Massachusetts-based nuclear safety expert and past-president of Physicians for Social Responsibility, told CBS News earlier this week that if fuel at one of the four crippled reactors in Japan were to melt down and break through the containment vessel, it could cause a massive explosion as superheated fuel mixed with the water coolant.

"The fuel rods contain enormous amounts of radioactive material -- each reactor can release more radiation than 1,000 Hiroshima-sized bombs," Helfand told the network.

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."

More information

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 School of Medicine, New York City; Nuclear Regulatory Commission Web site; CBS News; Associated Press


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