Japan radiation unlikely to reach US: Officials

An expert warns radioactivity might get into the ground, air and water.

Updated: Mar 14, 2011, 09:45 AM IST

Washington: Radiation from nuclear plants damaged in Japan`s earthquake is unlikely to reach US territory in harmful amounts, US nuclear officials said on Sunday.

"Given the thousands of miles between the two countries, Hawaii, Alaska, the US Territories and the US West Coast are not expected to experience any harmful levels of radioactivity," the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) said in a statement.

"All the available information indicates weather conditions have taken the small releases from the Fukushima reactors out to sea away from the population," the statement read.

The office also said it sent two boiling-water reactor experts as part of a US Agency for International Development (USAID) emergency team helping respond to the crisis in Japan.

The NRC is coordinating with the US Department of Energy and other federal agencies in providing "whatever assistance the Japanese government requests" following the March 11 earthquake and tsunami, the statement read.

However nuclear expert Joseph Cirincione, speaking on Fox News on Sunday, was less optimistic. He said that in a "worst-case scenario" radioactivity would get into the ground, air and water.

"Some of the radioactivity could carry in the atmosphere to the West Coast of the United States," said Cirincione, president of the Ploughshares Fund, which advocates for the elimination of nuclear weapons.

That scenario is "absolutely" possible, he said, pointing to the Chernobyl meltdown in Ukraine in 1986, when "the radioactivity spread around the entire Northern Hemisphere. It depends how many of these cores melt down and how successful they are on containing it once the disaster happens."

Japan on Sunday struggled to contain a possible meltdown of two reactors at a quake-hit nuclear plant.

An explosion at the aging Fukushima No 1 atomic plant blew apart the building housing one of its reactors Saturday, one day after the biggest quake ever recorded in Japan unleashed a monster tsunami.

The emergency escalated on Sunday as crews struggled to prevent overheating at a second reactor where the cooling system has also failed, and the government warned that it could also be hit with a blast.

Bureau Report