Danger to U.S. considered unlikely from Japanese nuclear crisis

Mar 14, 2011

A local expert says danger to the United States is unlikely from the nuclear crisis in Japan, following the devastating earthquake and tsunami. That's also being echoed by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, as reported by The Wall Street Journal.

Dan Jaffe is an atmospheric chemist at the University of Washington Bothell. Jaffe was the first to document air pollution from Asia crossing the Pacific Ocean to the West Coast. Jaffe was quoted in a press release issued by the University of Washington on Sunday.

If the nuclear incidents turn into a major meltdown and release of radiation, and depending on wind patterns, it could be transported in about seven days. But even in that case, I would expect enough dilution that there would be no health risk here in the Pacific Northwest. 

Beginning in 1998, Jaffe documented instances when atmospheric ozone from China was able to cross the Pacific in a week at high enough concentrations to push ozone levels in the Northwest past limits set by the Environmental Protection Agency. Since then, Jaffe has established an atmospheric observatory atop Mount Bachelor near Bend, Oregon.

Currently, radiation is not measured, he says, but if there is a major release in Japan he will probably try to get some detectors there in time to track it.