Skip to main content

California, Radiation and the Diplomats

On Friday, this story made the rounds on the blogs:

Earlier on Friday, diplomatic sources in Vienna said data showed tiny amounts of radioactive particles that were believed to have come from Japan's stricken Fukushima plant.

The level of radiation was far too low to cause any harm to humans, they said. One diplomat, citing information from a network of international monitoring stations, described the material as "ever so slight," consisting of only a few particles.

"They are irrelevant," the diplomat added.

Another diplomatic source also said the level was very low.

I’d probably hesitate to set off a potential panic using such a thin reed of information, but at least the “diplomats” made it clear that the  amount of radiation they detected could not cause harm. (More on them here.)

In any event, California is not seeing any radiation:

California air quality officials said on Friday they saw no elevated radiation levels on the U.S. West Coast from Japan's nuclear power plant disaster.

"At this point we're unable to verify if there are any elevated levels," said Ralph Borrmann, a spokesman for the Bay Area Air Quality Management District in San Francisco. "We're not seeing it on our live data in California."

Nor is EPA, though it hedges a bit:

Despite news reports about radiation from the damaged Japanese nuclear power plant reaching America, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says levels are still within the normal background range.

It sounds like they put it that way for the diplomats’ benefit.

Radiation should never be underplayed where it has the potential to harm life, but conversely, it’s very easy to create panic when there is any reason to believe there is high radiation. But  I hesitate to jump at any source that can say something – anything – about it. Reporters will pounce on it.

But one needn’t jump on rumors. California has Air Quality Management monitoring stations up and down the coast, so if radiation, no matter how trivial the amount, is detected there, they will report it. So far: nothing.


And then you get this:

Despite assurances by public health officials that radiation from Japan will cause little or no threat to the west coast of the United States, drug stores are selling out of radiation iodide tablets.

Radioactive iodine can collect in the thyroid and result in cancer. Potassium iodide tablets flood the thyroid with iodine so it will not accept any radioactive iodine that is in the environment.


The World Health Organization (WHO) says it has received reports of people being admitted to poison centers around the world after taking iodine tablets.

Fears about harmful levels of radiation coming out of the damaged nuclear power plant in Fukishima has seen panic buying of iodine pills in many countries.


In the wake of the crisis in Japan, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is advising consumers to beware of inadvertently buying fake iodide products that are supposed to help protect against radiation.

Does that mean people should not buy potassium iodide pills? No, of course not – that’s an individual decision – but it does mean one must take care as sleazy hucksters emerge and one must really understand how to take them so as not to get sick and one really ought to just stow them away. They’ll be there if you need them.


I’ve referenced this site lately, but Radiations Answers may need another call out. A lot of good information to help you understand the few instances where radiation is dangerous and the many instances where it is not.


Popular posts from this blog

A Billion Miles Under Nuclear Energy (Updated)

And the winner is…Cassini-Huygens, in triple overtime.

The spaceship conceived in 1982 and launched fifteen years later, will crash into Saturn on September 15, after a mission of 19 years and 355 days, powered by the audacity and technical prowess of scientists and engineers from 17 different countries, and 72 pounds of plutonium.

The mission was so successful that it was extended three times; it was intended to last only until 2008.

Since April, the ship has been continuing to orbit Saturn, swinging through the 1,500-mile gap between the planet and its rings, an area not previously explored. This is a good maneuver for a spaceship nearing the end of its mission, since colliding with a rock could end things early.

Cassini will dive a little deeper and plunge toward Saturn’s surface, where it will transmit data until it burns up in the planet’s atmosphere. The radio signal will arrive here early Friday morning, Eastern time. A NASA video explains.

In the years since Cassini has launc…

Sneak Peek

There's an invisible force powering and propelling our way of life.
It's all around us. You can't feel it. Smell it. Or taste it.
But it's there all the same. And if you look close enough, you can see all the amazing and wondrous things it does.
It not only powers our cities and towns.
And all the high-tech things we love.
It gives us the power to invent.
To explore.
To discover.
To create advanced technologies.
This invisible force creates jobs out of thin air.
It adds billions to our economy.
It's on even when we're not.
And stays on no matter what Mother Nature throws at it.
This invisible force takes us to the outer reaches of outer space.
And to the very depths of our oceans.
It brings us together. And it makes us better.
And most importantly, it has the power to do all this in our lifetime while barely leaving a trace.
Some people might say it's kind of unbelievable.
They wonder, what is this new power that does all these extraordinary things?

Missing the Point about Pennsylvania’s Nuclear Plants

A group that includes oil and gas companies in Pennsylvania released a study on Monday that argues that twenty years ago, planners underestimated the value of nuclear plants in the electricity market. According to the group, that means the state should now let the plants close.


The question confronting the state now isn’t what the companies that owned the reactors at the time of de-regulation got or didn’t get. It’s not a question of whether they were profitable in the '80s, '90s and '00s. It’s about now. Business works by looking at the present and making projections about the future.

Is losing the nuclear plants what’s best for the state going forward?

Pennsylvania needs clean air. It needs jobs. And it needs protection against over-reliance on a single fuel source.

What the reactors need is recognition of all the value they provide. The electricity market is depressed, and if electricity is treated as a simple commodity, with no regard for its benefit to clean air o…