Sensors in Southern California monitoring locations have yet to pick up any appreciable amount of radioactive fallout from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear reactors in Japan, and so far the diasater is said to pose no threat to residents of the state.
In its daily reports, the South Coast Air Quality Management District has continually stated that there has been no “increase in radiation levels above typical background levels” detected since the earthquake and tsunami in Japan that has claimed more than 9,500 lives.
And Los Angeles County health officials insisted this week that “there is no danger to local food or water supplies due to radiation….” Dr. Jonathan Fielding, director of the county Department of Public Health, told City News Service that no harmful levels of radiation have reached the state to impact California-produced food and livestock, and there is no danger in food imported from Japan.
“Food and other products previously imported from Japan into our state are also safe, as these were produced and distributed well before this tragedy occurred,” Fielding said.
Most nations, however, are clamping down on food items currently being imported from Japan. Such items as fava beans have been shown to contain increased levels of radiation. Other food items grown as far as 40 miles away from the nuclear plant have registered several times the desirable level of exposure, including spinach, milk and chrysanthemum greens.
The threat of such a nuclear disaster here points to the serious concerns regarding safety at nuclear plants in America, particularly on the West Coast.
The probability of a similar occurrence in California puts the spotlight on the state’s two reactor sites. State officials are demanding a review of the San Onofre nuclear plant near San Clemente and the Diablo Canyon nuclear plant near San Luis Obispo, to determine if they can indeed handle the level of earthquake they are purported to withstand.
Both California plants are located near earthquake fault lines.
State Sen. Sam Blakeslee, a Republican from San Luis Obispo whose district includes the Diablo Canyon plant, has been unrelenting in his determination to get Pacific Gas & Electric, owner of the plant, to detail the hazards of the newly revealed nearby fault. Blakeslee and other state political leaders want to determine if both plants are likely to withstand the kind of earthquake devastation that have been predicted in their locations.
The quake that rocked the north coast of Japan on March 11 was a magnitude 9. The San Onofre plant has been modeled to withstand a magnitude 7 earthquake; Diablo Canyon, a 7.5.
Shortly after news of the quake and tsunami hit, scores of Southern Californians rushed out to health stores to purchase potassium iodide and kelp in anticipation of rising levels of radioactivity in the atmosphere. By the weekend, several health stores had sold out of their supplies, but were expecting new shipments.
These sources of iodine are said to assist the thyroid in blocking the absorption of radioactive iodine from food, water and the atmosphere. Once the thyroid has reached its limit of iodine absorption from potassium iodide or kelp (seaweed), radioactive iodine cannot be absorbed, since the gland can only hold so much iodine at a time.
However, there are some forms of radioactivity that good iodine cannot compete against.
Additionally, the heavy absorption of potassium iodide could cause problems for some, particularly those allergic to shellfish. The allergic reactions caused by the iodine could be life-threatening.
Were there to be an actual meltdown of the reactors, the situation in Southern California could change drastically, some believe.
So what could residents do if a deadly radioactive plume from the Fukushima reactors in Japan wafted over California, dusting the state with enough material to negatively affect hundreds of thousands of people?
Some websites propose that you have an evacuation plan, which would include keeping your automobile well-fueled in readiness to move inland. However, if you intend to stay put, it is recommended that you purchase enough plastic and duct tape to seal your windows and doors, and that you keep plenty of food and water on hand. They also recommend that you begin taking iodine, at least in the form of seaweed (kelp).
However, most authorities believe that if a meltdown were to occur in Japan, it would still pose little or no danger to the state, which is 5,000 miles away from the island nation.
Mayor Antonio Villaraigoisa’s office last week released information on new city directives “that will increase Los Angeles’ emergency preparedness” in the eventuality of an earthquake or tsunami. The information quoted Lucy Jones, Ph.D., an expert in geophysics and seismology at Caltech, as stating that “There is no immediate threat in Los Angeles; however, now is the time to examine our ability to respond to a crisis and to recognize where our vulnerabilities lie.”
“The ongoing emergency in Japan should remind everyone throughout the world that disasters–natural and man-made–can strike without warning,” said public health director Fielding. “Take this moment to evaluate your own disaster plan and to restock your emergency kit.”