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California 'too far' for Japan radiation to reach, officials say

March 15, 2011 |  6:58 am

Despite the growing nuclear crisis in Japan, health officials in California said they were doubtful that  harmful radiation would flow 5,000 miles to the West Coast.

Jordan Scott, a spokesman for the California Emergency Management Agency, said nuclear experts had reassured officials in his office that “there is no danger at this time.”

Scott said they also have been told that, should a meltdown occur at one of Japan’s quake-damaged nuclear reactors, “it is highly unlikely that we would see any effects of it here.”

Photos: Scenes of earthquake destruction

“Things would have to get kind of 'end of days' for us to see even a little bit of it here. We’re talking very extreme,” Scott said. “We’re just too far for anything to really reach us. A majority of the materials that would come out of there in a meltdown would dissipate” within miles, he said.

“That being said," Scott said, "we are doing our due diligence in monitoring the situation and making sure we have the most updated information.”

State health officials kept close watch Monday on potential radioactive releases at Japanese nuclear plants, making conference calls to local and federal officials every few hours, said Mike Sicilia, a spokesman for the California Department of Public Health.

Sicilia said federal nuclear regulatory agencies had told state officials that the Japanese nuclear troubles did not pose an immediate danger to California.

“The Department of Public Health has radioactive monitoring for the water, food and the air,” Sicilia said. "We do have a plan of response and constant contact with our partners. From a health standpoint, we’re not concerned at this point.”

Some potassium iodide tablets and personal radiation detectors were selling out on Amazon on Monday morning, with price hikes drawing angry accusations of gouging from commenters.

Scott said California residents should not just focus on preparing for a potential nuclear disaster but on preparing for any of the natural disasters that routinely strike the state, including floods, wildfires and earthquakes. He recommended that people check out which disasters are common where they live and prepare with earthquake kits, evacuation and reunification plans.

“It’s a big reminder to people that we are vulnerable to all sorts of disasters," Scott said, "and we need to get prepared.”


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-- Molly Hennessy-Fiske