File these away
The local "experts" on the nuclear disaster in Japan and its potential health effects on Oregonians had quite a day yesterday. The ones whom the local mainstream media bothered to call told us, to a one, that there was, and is, absolutely nothing to be concerned about. Go on about your business!
Is that right? We're sure that there are other experts who would beg to differ. None were interviewed or quoted by the Portland media, however. Maybe it was the long distance charges that prevented their being consulted.
Most surprising were the local "experts" who declared that even the worst-case scenario in Japan would not have health effects on people in Oregon. That's a pretty outlandish assertion, in that no one knows exactly what is eventually going to happen over there:
The fear is that a full meltdown will occur. The rods melt to a point where they breach both containment structures and escape into the environment, contaminating the soil and releasing radioactive particles into the air.According to the National Academy of Sciences, any exposure to ionizing radiation increases a person’s risk of cancer. And given the levels of radiation that are already being dispersed into the winds blowing our way, it's dishonest to say none of it will arrive in Oregon. Of course some of it will, and perhaps lots of it.
"The worst case scenario is ... the fuel rods fuse together, the temperatures get so hot that they melt together in a radioactive molten mass that bursts through the containment mechanisms," nuclear expert Joe Cirincione of the anti-nuclear group Ploughshares Fund told Agence France-Presse.
These radioactive particles are then picked up by winds, and depending on where they are blowing at any given time, a nuclear cloud could move across the Pacific to the west coast of the United States, causing possible health problems and contaminating food stocks.
Anyway, a short time from now, if Oregonians are being told not to serve dairy products to their kids and to limit time outdoors, one wouldn't be surprised if yesterday's brimming-with-confidence comments will be quietly withdrawn. It's easily done. Try to find Vera Katz's gushing testimonial to Neil Goldschmidt from a half hour after he resigned from his role as Political Boss -- before we found out what that was really about. You won't find it easily. Ted Kulongoski's admiring statement from the same hour is also missing. So mark the following down now, while you have a chance. We'll start with the one we cited last evening, and then pick up some others:
"Even if there were to be a significant release from Japan, and that’s not expected to happen, we do not expect any health risk," said Gail Shibley with Oregon Environmental Public Health. "This is based on the specific type of reactors, the shutdown status of those plants and ongoing containment efforts."If they said "Things are o.k. for now, but could change," you might buy it. But read those quotes. This is how people in authority act when nuclear power is involved. They lie.
Portland has its own nuclear reactor at Reed College and the director of the program there told KGW Monday that the chances of a massive escape of radiation from a meltdown of nuclear reactors in Japan were slim to none.
Stephen Frantz said that all signs lead to a meltdown of some level at the reactors in Japan. He predicted that the probable effect on health should that happen will be "zero."
That applies to both people in Japan, and Oregon.
Q: What if emergency crews are unable to prevent a catastrophic meltdown at the reactor?
A: Even then, it's questionable whether dangerous levels of radiation would reach the West Coast because of the long distance and dilution that takes place in the atmosphere, said Kathryn Higley, a professor and head of the department of nuclear engineering and radiation health physics at Oregon State University. After the Chernobyl nuclear power disaster in 1986, RadNet stations in Oregon and Washington recorded an uptick in radioactive iodine-131 carried from Ukraine by high-altitude winds but not enough to pose a health risk, Leon said.
"Readings do not show any increase in radiation, and no increases are expected," said Oregon Public Health Division spokesperson Christine Stone following a Sunday morning conference call with health officials in Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Alaska and parts of western Canada.
According to Stone, the officials said radiation monitoring equipment in all the states and Canada showed normal levels on both Saturday and Sunday morning. Increases are not anticipated, Stone said, although Japan is still struggling to prevent meltdowns in a number of nuclear reactors damaged by the 8.9-magnitude earthquake and tsunami.
In a news release, state Public Health Director Mel Kohn says the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission gave the all-clear.
"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," the news release says. "There have been no elevated radiation readings detected in Oregon and air samples remain normal. Given the current size of the release and the distance from Oregon, we do not expect that to change and there is no public health risk to the state."