SAN FRANCISCO (KCBS / CBS 5) — Wind patterns will bring a radioactive plume from the crippled Japanese nuclear reactors to the Aleutian Islands by Thursday and to the West Coast by Friday, according to projections.

However, the low-level radioactive particles fall well within safe limits and pose little health risk, according to experts with the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization.

KCBS’ Tim Ryan and Doug Sovern Report:

As a result, Bay Area residents are not at risk of radiation contamination, both regional and federal authorities reassured the public on Thursday.

A CBS 5 poll of Bay Area residents found a majority, 54%, were not very concerned or not at all concerned about radiation from Japan reaching us. The poll also found that 71% said they would not be buying potasium iodide, a substance that helps keep the body from absorbing radiation. It’s sales have soared in recent days in the Bay Area because of radiation fears.

State health officials have advised residents not to take potassium iodide as a precautionary measure, saying “it is not necessary given the current circumstances in Japan.”

>>FAQ About Radiation From The Calif. Dept. Of Public Health

Residents near the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station in Japan have been evacuated since the plant was crippled by last week’s deadly 9.0-magnitude earthquake and ensuing tsunami, and models show that a radioactive plume from the plant could reach California on Friday.

>>Photo Gallery: Japan Quake Damage

“What really matters is the altitude that the plume is at,” said Dr. Kirby Kemper, a physicist at Florida State University.

Radioactive particles from Chernobyl that reached the United States stayed at such a high altitude that very little was deposited on the surface, he said, even though the facility didn’t have a containment
building and used graphite fuel that ignited and burned.

“You could have a plume, but it’s a big area and a big volume,” Kemper said.

In this case, United Nations experts believe the plume from Japan will be so diluted that it poses no health consequences in the U.S.

The projections are based on 63 sensors operated internationally by the United Nations and 100 radiation monitors the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency operates across North America.

>>CNET Reports: Tracking Radiation Exposure

The predicted path could change depending on shifting weather patterns.

It took nearly two weeks for a radioactive plume from a 2006 North Korean nuclear test to travel across the pacific, according to the United Nations.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Nuclear Regulatory Commission and Department of Health and Human Services have all said California residents are not expected to be at risk.

“Everybody, for the most part, is saying the risks are insignificant,” said Eric Stevenson, director of technical services for the Bay Area Air Quality Management District. “It would have to be a major catastrophe for us to be significantly impacted. Most of these impacts will, unfortunately for the Japanese, be localized.”

>>Complete CBS News Coverage > Japan Disaster

The air quality district operates a radiation detector for the EPA at its San Francisco facility, and the detector has not reported elevated levels of radiation, Stevenson said.

Also Thursday, the South Coast Air Quality Management District said there had been no change in background levels of radiation detected at three Southern California sites that it operates for the EPA.

Still, the U.S. government has implemented several policies out of “an abundance of caution” to reassure and protect residents.

The EPA, whose California monitoring stations include locations in San Jose and Richmond, has set up additional stations in Guam, Alaska and Hawaii.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection has directed its employees to specifically monitor maritime and air traffic from Japan for possible radiation contamination.

So far no planes entering the U.S. have tested positive for harmful levels of radiation, and travelers are being observed for signs of radiation sickness, according to the agency.

Mail and cargo are also being tested, and anything that could be cause for alarm will be denied entry to the country, agency officials said.

(© 2011 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Wire services may have contributed to this report.)

Comments (33)
  1. Burton Gunther says:

    The Repubs want to eliminate funding to Environment, Nuclear, Weather and other important Monitoring / Regulatory Agencies. Let’s see how they spin their (il)logic now.

    1. photojack53 says:

      What a great post! These Repugnicans are so short-sighted and sold-out to their corporate benefactors that they truly endanger the current and future state of our country. They vote as a block, NOT serving even their own constituent’s best interests. We need to vote out, recall or impeach these bought-out, plutocratic idiots before they cause a further ruination of our nation.

  2. Chad says:

    People in California and on the entire Western North American Continent would like more comprehensive reporting on this including advice on what precautions, if any, the U. S. Government health agencies would recommend to us.

    1. Sofa Kingdom says:

      You don’t need to do anything per Obama. He wouldn’t lie to us.

      1. Rick says:

        We can now use the goverment recommended Duct Tape and Plastic Tarps to save use. Wait – that was from George W. Bush – never mind!

      2. Kirk says:

        LOL but who is lying to him?

  3. Jeff says:

    I have a radiation monitor in Menlo Park. The current background radiation level is 0.07 micro Sv per hour. I’ll try to report any changes in measurement.

    1. Mo says:

      Thanks Jeff. I think I trust you more than the government. How can we keep track of your posts?

      1. Kirk says:

        Agreed, thanks. Why is t we don’t trust the government?

    2. Gordon Lum says:


      We live in Saratoga and we too are concerned about this radioactive plume. Can you send us data so we can monitor this plume?

      Is there anything our family can do to decrease radiation levels–lead jackets, etc?

      Thank you.

      The Lum family

    3. Jorge says:

      thank you Jeff .. please keep it posted if any changes, I do trust you than government too.

    4. Kristen L says:

      You might also check for crowd-sourced monitoring.

    5. Jim says:

      Thanks for the post, how do we keep track of any updates.

    6. Dixie says:

      Hey Jeff, what good does it do to know the radiation levels? I mean once you find out it’s in the danger zone, then what? There are over 37 million people in the state.

  4. Booga says:

    Makes me wonder, how much radiation really comes to California from those places over sea testing nukes. I am sure it is a lot more then this issue in Japan.

  5. eturk says:

    Republcans, like Palin suggest, that Real Americans don’t live on the coasts. Liberals live on the coasts in big cities, so they don’t really matter to the rest of the Nation. (i.e. Bill Maher lives in LA & John Stewart in NYC) Coastal people are strange educated elitists. Divisiveness is at an all-time high.

    1. photojack53 says:

      These EVIL Repugnicans are so short-sighted and sold-out to their corporate benefactors that they truly endanger the current and future state of our country. They vote as a block, NOT serving even their own constituent’s best interests. We need to vote out, recall or impeach these bought-out, plutocratic idiots before they cause a further ruination of our nation. They denied global warming past the point where it was impossible to deny the scientific evidence, they want to gut the EPA, the Clean Air Act and other vitally needed regulatory agencies, all in their bid to aid their VILE corporate donors and they are working overtime to disenfranchise voters traditionally aligned with the Democrats, like students, ethnic minorities and the poor. Their strategies and policies are detrimental to the well-being of ALL American citizens AND the people’s of the world!

  6. betty says:

    How high exactly is this high-level plume? How low is this allegedly low-level radiation? Where exactly on the West Coast is the plume expected to arrive? Why is the US population getting such vague information regarding the radiation plume?
    Why is the coverage of this disaster so skimpy on the electronic media? Kudos to ABC for their coveage on Dateline.

  7. InfoWarrior says:

    “In this case, United Nations experts believe the plume will be so diluted that it poses no health consequences in the U.S.”

    Not true.

    This is what was reported in the NY Times:
    “(UN) Health and nuclear experts emphasize that radiation in the plume will be diluted as it travels and, at worst, would have extremely minor health consequences in the United States, even if hints of it are ultimately detectable.”


  8. Maria G. says:

    Can we all just take a chill pill? This isn’t about the US or the West coast. People in Japan have suffered several horrific disasters. Please put things in perspective and do everything you can to help your fellow human beings. Go to the Red Cross or USAID and be as generous as you can.

    1. Nick L says:

      Maria this is about California I live here, sure I feel bad for the Japs but I feel worse for me and my neighbors who have nothing to do with this but get microwaved.

    2. Kirk says:

      It is about the WHOLE WORLD.
      Japan was prepared for earthquake and tsunami.
      They were not prepared for Nuke disaster — obviously.
      They endangered themselves, and all of us.
      Yes we should help them, but lets be clear that they brought the Nuke
      disaster on themselves — and us.

  9. Tim E says:

    It’s important to know what is the source of the radiation, is it for example Uranium 235 from #1 or 2, or much more worrying is that its being reported that Reactor #3 runs MOX fuel which is a mix of Uranium and Plutonium, last thing we need is to inhale the slightest particle of even low grade 241Pu !!

  10. Roger S says:

    I can see it now. Everyone who gets cancer over the next 20 years is going to sue the Japanese claiming it was from exposure to radiation from this disaster.

  11. D says:

    Whoever is worrying about this In the West Coast is an idiot. Did the Korean plume cause anything? Didn’t think so.

  12. Burton Gunther says:

    The Plastic Tarp & Duct Tape that GW Bush suggested was almost cleansed out of my mind. Thanks for reminding me !

    Are you selling Iodine Tablets on the side with your snake oil?

    Why would you suggest the Feds do something about the Japanese private nuclear plant? Remember, you state that the US Federal Gov’t should be hands off private or corporate matters. Every state or soveriegn country should handle their own situation.

  13. Rob says:

    you people that are worried about this in California sound like a bunch of nut jobs! Lead jackets???? Really??? Hello this is 5 thousand miles away. This would be like worrying about someone peeing in a pool.

  14. Blastoff says:

    Don’t forget that the US Government has tested thousands of nuclear devices on our own soil up until the 90’s, as well as who knows how many tests in the south pacific and else where, AND not to mention the original bombs we dropped on populated cities IN JAPAN. bombs are much worse than leaks from a power plant as they are designed to spread fallout as far and as high as possible.
    In comparison the radiation from Japan will be a fart in the wind, so to speak. Stop whining and go support your local sushi joint.

  15. Guerote says:

    Don’t get caught up in the left-right paradigm. The Republicrats and the demopublicans work for the same Wall Street Banksters. While the Japan crisis was kicking off, Obama was busy with the NBA predictions. I hear that he and his family will be leaving today for another vacation to Rio del Janiero. Where’s all the hope and change? We’re still fighting in Iraq, Afganistan, and are gearing up to bomb the heck out of Libya.

  16. Theodocious says:

    Jeff — what is it today? Thanks.

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