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  • Heather Cummings

How Japan’s Troubled Nuclear Reactors May Affect You

Updated: Aug 29, 2023

As problems at the damaged Japanese nuclear plant, Fukushima Daiichi, continue, many U.S. residents are asking themselves what effect the radiation leaks could have on America. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission assured citizens that the likelihood of harmful radiation levels reaching the West Coast was slim; however, they did not make such a guarantee in the event of a full-scale melt-down. While this problem may seem half a world away, it may be closer than you realize.

The Fukushima Daiichi plant has five General Electric (GE) Mark I nuclear reactors, the same model that three former GE employees believed to be flawed. The “GE Three” as they became known, publicly resigned from the company more than 30 years ago in an attempt to amplify their concerns about the reactor. While GE agreed to several retrofits, were they enough?

When Dale G. Bridenbaugh, one of the GE Three, was asked that very question by ABC News he offered a less than convincing response.

“What I would say is, the Mark I is still a little more susceptible to an accident that would result in a loss of containment.”

Today there are 23 GE Mark I nuclear reactors operating in the U.S., including the Oyster Creek, New Jersey plant. Additionally, newer GE Mark II boiling-water reactors operate in both Limerick and Susquehanna, Pennsylvania. GE insists that these reactors have a track record of performing safely and properly; yet, concern continues to grow.

The EPA has devoted an entire section of their website to the Japanese nuclear emergency. Through this page citizens can find information about radiation, EPA updates, FAQs, as well as access to the RadNet Monitoring System. RadNet is a nationwide system used to monitor larger-scale releases of radioactive materials. In a statement released earlier this week, the EPA said they did not anticipate harmful radiation levels reaching the U.S.; however, they encouraged Americans to use RadNet to access current and historical data.

The EPA site helps to clarify the units of measure for radiation and to put radiation doses in perspective. During this evolving crisis, having a basic knowledge of ionizing radiation will help your understanding of the news reports on the potential dangers to Japan’s people and to U.S. citizens and our air quality. Leave a comment with your thoughts on the aftermath of the tsunami.



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