Wednesday, August 22 , 2018, 1:08 am | Fair 63º

 
 
 
 

Local News

Harmful Radiation from Japan’s Nuclear Plants Unlikely to Reach South Coast

Santa Barbara County officials say distance alone will be enough of a barrier

The South Coast is not expected to experience any harmful levels of radioactivity stemming from nuclear power plants damaged after Friday’s massive earthquake and tsunami in Japan, the Santa Barbara County Office of Emergency Services said Monday.

There have been two explosions at the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant, and according to reports, the fuel rods at reactor No. 2 were completely exposed, increasing the risk of a meltdown.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission works with other U.S. agencies to monitor radioactive releases and predict their path. Weather conditions have taken the small releases from the Fukushima reactors out to sea and away from the population, OES said in a news release.

“Given the thousands of miles between the two countries, Hawaii, Alaska, the U.S. territories and the U.S. West Coast are not expected to experience any harmful levels of radioactivity,” according to the OES news release.

Although it is possible for radiation to spread through means such as jet streams, too much distance separates Japan and the United States to have any tangible impact, said Takuya Yamamoto, a chemical engineering associate researcher at UCSB.

Yamamoto said he used to live in the Sendai region of Japan and has received e-mails from some friends but that others remain unaccounted for, he said. Fortunately, his family was away on vacation when disaster struck last week.

The crisis in Japan has spurred questions about local plant safety. The Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant in San Luis Obispo, owned by PG&E, employs a fully staffed seismic department to monitor seismic activity, according to Diablo Canyon spokesperson Kory Raftery.

“(Sendai) is one of the most active areas in world; the size and scope of the quake produced by that fault — 8.9 — is much larger than anything scientists believe could happen here,” Raftery said, adding that scientists predict the largest earthquake would be 6.0 to 6.5 in San Luis Obispo.

The fault that caused Sendai’s earthquake was a subduction zone, in comparison to San Luis Obispo’s strike-slip fault that doesn’t produce the magnitude of ground motion that Japan’s did, he added.

“Diablo Canyon has a strong operating history and is recognized as one of the safest plants,” Raftery said.

Click here for a live map that records the nation’s radiation levels and automatically updates every five minutes.

Noozhawk staff writer Alex Kacik can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Become a fan of Noozhawk on Facebook.

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