Sunday 4 December 2016

Radiation likely to reach Europe within two weeks

Richard Alleyne in London

Published 18/03/2011 | 05:00

RADIATION from the stricken Japanese nuclear power plant is already being detected hundreds of miles away, and is expected to reach western Europe within a fortnight, experts predict.

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But, unlike Chernobyl, it is highly unlikely to arrive at levels that will have any impact on health or food supplies.

Monitoring stations in Russia have already detected caesium and iodine in the atmosphere and the fallout is expected to reach the US within two days.

Using previous models, that means Ireland and Britain will pick up radiation within a couple of weeks.

Radiation levels around the plant are currently running at around 10 millisieverts (mSv) per hour which means just 15 minutes of exposure will surpass the average person's yearly dose. But there have also been spikes as high as 400 mSv per hour. Long-term exposure to that could lead to radiation sickness.

The Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organisation (CTBTO), which has 90 monitors around the world to detect radioactivity from nuclear bomb tests, has already detected radiation in neighbouring Russia. Using historical data from Chinese bomb tests, it estimates that it will take a further 10 to 14 days to reach Europe. Lars-Erik De Geer, research director at the Swedish Defence Research Institute, a government agency, said that iodine and caesium particles had been picked up in Russia.

He said he was convinced they would eventually be detected over the whole northern hemisphere. He said the main movement in the air around Japan normally went from west to east, but suggested the direction occasionally reversed.

In Geneva, the UN's World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) said that "north-westerly winds prevailed over the eastern and northern part of Japan", and that this was expected to remain the case overnight. An earlier forecast of the possible movement of the radioactive plume showed it churning across the Pacific, and touching the Aleutian Islands before hitting southern California later today.

The US Nuclear Regulatory Commission advised on Wednesday any Americans living near Japan's crippled nuclear plant to move at least 50 miles (80km) away, but it played down the risks of contamination to the United States.

Health and nuclear experts emphasised that radiation would be diluted as it travelled, and at worst would have extremely minor health consequences in the US. In a similar way, radiation from the Chernobyl disaster in 1986 spread around the globe, and reached the west coast of the US in 10 days. Its levels were measurable but minuscule.(©Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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