Radiation from Japan not likely to harm North America

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 12:53 PM GMT on March 14, 2011

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Radiation from Japan's stricken Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant has been detected 100 miles to the northeast, over the Pacific Ocean, by the U.S. military. Westerly to southwesterly winds have predominated over Japan the past few days, carrying most of the radiation eastwards out to sea. The latest forecast for Sendai, Japan, located about 40 miles north of the Fukushima nuclear plant, calls for winds with a westerly component to dominate for the remainder of the week, with the exception of a 6-hour period on Tuesday. Thus, any radiation released by the nuclear plant will primarily affect Japan or blow out to sea. A good tool to predict the radiation cloud's path is NOAA's HYSPLIT trajectory model. The model uses the GFS model's winds to track the movement of a hypothetical release of a substance into the atmosphere. One can specify the altitude of the release as well as the location, and follow the trajectory for up to two weeks. However, given the highly chaotic nature of the atmosphere's winds, trajectories beyond about 3 days have huge uncertainties.One can get only a general idea of where a plume is headed beyond 3 days. I've been performing a number of runs of HYSPLIT over past few days, and so far great majority of these runs have taken plumes of radioactivity emitted from Japan's east coast eastwards over the Pacific, with the plumes staying over water for at least 5 days. Some of the plumes move over eastern Siberia, Alaska, Canada, the U.S., and Mexico in 5 - 7 days. Such a long time spent over water will mean that the vast majority of the radioactive particles will settle out of the atmosphere or get caught up in precipitation and rained out. It is highly unlikely that any radiation capable of causing harm to people will be left in atmosphere after seven days and 2000+ miles of travel distance. Even the Chernobyl nuclear disaster, which had a far more serious release of radioactivity, was unable to spread significant contamination more than about 1000 miles.


Figure 1. Forecast 7-day movement of a plume of radioactive plume of air emitted at 12 UTC Saturday, March 12, 2011 from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant. Radioactivity emitted at 2 levels is tracked: 100 meters (red) and 300 meters (blue). Images created using NOAA's HYSPLIT trajectory model.


Figure 2. Forecast 7-day movement of a plume of radioactive plume of air emitted at 12 UTC Sunday, March 13, 2011 from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant. Radioactivity emitted at 2 levels is tracked: 100 meters (red) and 300 meters (blue). Images created using NOAA's HYSPLIT trajectory model.


Figure 3. Forecast 7-day movement of a plume of radioactive plume of air emitted at 12 UTC Monday, March 14, 2011 from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant. Radioactivity emitted at 2 levels is tracked: 100 meters (red) and 300 meters (blue). Images created using NOAA's HYSPLIT trajectory model.

I'll have an update Tuesday morning.

Jeff Masters

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Houston storms are pinging at 65dbz
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Quoting jeffs713:

Thats not what I was trying to say, actually.

What I was trying to appeal for is moderation. Keeping a level head, not being reactionary (or doom'n'gloom), and also being honest. These kind of events can be seen three ways:

Reactionary = OMG we're gonna DIE!
Even-keeled = Read all the news about it, do your own research, form your own opinions. Also "hope for the best, prepare (mentally) for the worst".
Delusional = Oh, nothing's wrong, there's NO chance of radiation here, etc, etc.

Many people confuse "think positively" with that delusional state. I am a generally positive person, but I also make preparations for the worst, just so I'm not surprised. (does that all make sense now?)



Yes, makes sense, and I meant no hostility. I too am exactly as you describe here. But this blog is, among other things, a study in human nature, complete with the expected array of shortcomings. It's also a fantastic place to get up to the minute news, at least during events like this, and is routinely ahead of the curve compared to many news outlets. For that I applaud the regular posters.
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Quoting RitaEvac:


Yep, those are world heroes, their families should be compensated with millions too.

Absolutely. The media will be fawning over stories of the rescuers, and those who died while saving other people. What won't be mentioned is what *didn't happen* people of the work that others (who died, or will die) accomplished.
Member Since: August 3, 2008 Posts: 16 Comments: 5891
Quoting jeffs713:

Exactly. And if they don't die within a month from acute radiation poisoning, they will likely die within the next 5 years from some form of cancer or chronic radiation poisoning.

That said... the workers at the nuclear plants are considered (to me, at least) as unsung heroes. Without them working, and putting their life at risk, we wouldn't be speaking of "the possibility" of a full meltdown. We would be speaking of thousands more deaths as a result of a full and catastrophic complete meltdown.


Yep, those are world heroes, their families should be compensated with millions too.
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Quoting GetingDrilled:
I have GFS 06Z model run at near zero. and 100 meters and others with a great plot KMZ file from Google Earth.

You may access any of these files going here for the model job

I highly recommend the Google Earth overlay KMZ file



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Quoting RitaEvac:
Nobody has said a word about the people that are trying to contain the situation, but those folks that are in the facilities will die within the month, that's confirmed. They are exposed to much higher levels of radiation inside there

Exactly. And if they don't die within a month from acute radiation poisoning, they will likely die within the next 5 years from some form of cancer or chronic radiation poisoning.

That said... the workers at the nuclear plants are considered (to me, at least) as unsung heroes. Without them working, and putting their life at risk, we wouldn't be speaking of "the possibility" of a full meltdown. We would be speaking of thousands more deaths as a result of a full and catastrophic complete meltdown.
Member Since: August 3, 2008 Posts: 16 Comments: 5891
Fukushima No. 2 reactor's fuel rods fully exposed, melting feared

"Fuel rods at the quake-hit Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant's No. 2 reactor were fully exposed at one point after its cooling functions failed, the plant operator said Monday, indicating the critical situation of the reactor's core beginning to melt due to overheating.

"The rods were exposed as a fire pump to pour seawater into the reactor to cool it down ran out of fuel, Tokyo Electric Power Co. said. The firm had reported the loss of cooling functions as an emergency to the government.

"TEPCO said water levels later recovered to cover 30 centimeters in the lower parts of the fuel rods.

"The seawater injection operation started at 4:34 p.m., but water levels in the No. 2 reactor have since fallen sharply with only one out of five fire pumps working. The other four were feared to have been damaged by a blast that occurred in the morning at the nearby No. 3 reactor."
Member Since: November 8, 2009 Posts: 4 Comments: 13803
I have GFS 06Z model run at near zero. and 100 meters and others with a great plot KMZ file from Google Earth.

You may access any of these files going here for the model job

I highly recommend the Google Earth overlay KMZ file

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Nobody has said a word about the people that are trying to contain the situation, but those folks that are in the facilities will die within the month, that's confirmed. They are exposed to much higher levels of radiation inside there
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1507: Nuclear fuel rods have been exposed again at the Fukushima plant, Kyodo news is reporting. More on this as we get it.
Member Since: November 8, 2009 Posts: 4 Comments: 13803
Quoting NRAamy:
Delusional = Oh, nothing's wrong, there's NO chance of radiation here, etc, etc.

you forgot to add "I'll just hide behind my My Little Pony shower curtain"

LOL.

"My Little Pony", or my "Little Mermaid" curtain? (bonus points to anyone who catches the reference)
Member Since: August 3, 2008 Posts: 16 Comments: 5891
Excellent Q&A about the situation at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant here.
Member Since: November 8, 2009 Posts: 4 Comments: 13803
Quoting fireflymom:

Well said; the Japanese show honor and dignity in the face of disaster - something we could learn from. I think of Rita & the aftermath of Katrina (the unbridled chaos) as I watch the Japanese people stand in line waiting patiently for the opportunity to receive 10 items from a grocery store. They set an example to the world as they stand humbled by Mother Nature & her power; they are panicked in their hearts yet they maintain an order, a composure as they extend common courtesy and kindness to their brothers & sisters.

My heart & prayers go out to the Japanese people.
God Bless
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Quoting ParkerPark:


This is exactly the response I expected when I posted that statement - implied accusations of delusional thought and other nonsense. This also makes my point, which was that the tenor of this blog tends to be reactionary, and therefore just a touch negative. The fact is that once you're done sifting through the endless news reports, and accounting for each outlet's biases/influences/slants/interests, the best you can do is conclude that you don't really know what's going on, and therefore perhaps it's advisable not to get so carried away. That's not delusional; if anything, it IS pragmatic.

Thats not what I was trying to say, actually.

What I was trying to appeal for is moderation. Keeping a level head, not being reactionary (or doom'n'gloom), and also being honest. These kind of events can be seen three ways:

Reactionary = OMG we're gonna DIE!
Even-keeled = Read all the news about it, do your own research, form your own opinions. Also "hope for the best, prepare (mentally) for the worst".
Delusional = Oh, nothing's wrong, there's NO chance of radiation here, etc, etc.

Many people confuse "think positively" with that delusional state. I am a generally positive person, but I also make preparations for the worst, just so I'm not surprised. (does that all make sense now?)
Member Since: August 3, 2008 Posts: 16 Comments: 5891
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Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 178 Comments: 56141
Encouraging news on the reactors at the other facility (not the one where explosions have occurred).
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Key Indexes At 10:35 AM ET
At least 15-minute delay
Change % change 1 month 1 year Low High 52-week
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At close 03/11/2011
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Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 178 Comments: 56141
Shows it all right here


Photos of before and after
Link
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Quoting fireflymom:
Saw this quote during the coverage of this disaster and wanted to share.
"The commercial TV channels in Japan have recently restarted advert breaks, but instead of the usual adverts for consumer goods, they are showing ones for helping your neighbours, recycling, reading books and being polite. Very refreshing."

We, as a society, can learn much in how the Japanese people deal with disasters on such a large scale. Every news report I have seen on the coverage of these events shows a very resilient and respectful society. I flash back to the Hurricane Rita evacuation of the Houston area and remember the news reports where we were shooting and killing each other in gas lines. I often wonder how we can consider ourselves to be civilized when civility among us for each other is trumped by 10 gallons of gasoline. I think this does not speak well of our society.

My heart weighs heavy for all in a nation that has endured so much in its history and seems to continually be tested. My respect goes to them for their fortitude and for their example of how a society should behave when adversity strikes. WWII set aside, what an amazing society.

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Quoting jeffs713:

There is a line between thiking positively, being pragmatic, and burying your head in the sand. Personally, I'm hopeful, but being pragmatic. I will not be delusional and think that everything is all rosy, and that there is no danger from a radiation release.

Anyone who refuses to face reality, and buries their head in the sand thinking nothing will happen is clearly delusional and in denial of reality.


This is exactly the response I expected when I posted that statement - implied accusations of delusional thought and other nonsense. This also makes my point, which was that the tenor of this blog tends to be reactionary, and therefore just a touch negative. The fact is that once you're done sifting through the endless news reports, and accounting for each outlet's biases/influences/slants/interests, the best you can do is conclude that you don't really know what's going on, and therefore perhaps it's advisable not to get so carried away. That's not delusional; if anything, it IS pragmatic.
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This is old news

Link
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Quoting aspectre:
Waiting for some mutant superpowers, m'self.

I'd settle for ESP.
Member Since: August 3, 2008 Posts: 16 Comments: 5891
Quoting RitaEvac:


Just got the car washed Friday, probably gonna have yellow pollen on it now after the rains

I never bother washing my car during March. Its just like putting a big neon sign on top of your car, inviting the nocturnal gnomes to come by and spray-paint your car yellow with pollen. (its not the wind or trees that do it.. its spray-paintin' gnomes - don't try to catch them, though, they are like leprechauns)
Member Since: August 3, 2008 Posts: 16 Comments: 5891
35. JRRP
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Quoting jeffs713:

This is also normal because these rains are the first time in a week it has rained during the day... and OF COURSE the rain is the same day I'm getting my sprinkler system installed.

WTF.


Just got the car washed Friday, probably gonna have yellow pollen on it now after the rains
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Waiting for some mutant superpowers, m'self.
Member Since: August 21, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 4860
Quoting Neapolitan:
1354: Asked if there is a danger of a meltdown at the Fukushima plant, nuclear safety expert Toshihiro Bannai adds: "On units one and three there is a possibility they are partially damaged in the core. However at this point, monitoring indications doesn't indicate damage of the core."

So there you have the definitive word: the reactor cores have been breached, or they haven't. And they may be spewing plumes of radioactivity, or they may not.

Feel better now? ;-)

At this point, I'm starting to think that we won't know for sure if the core was breached until we have small animals glowing in the dark, or a marked rise in 3-headed animals around the plant. (or the local cancer rate skyrocketing)
Member Since: August 3, 2008 Posts: 16 Comments: 5891
Quoting RitaEvac:
Just to get a sense of normalcy back in the mix... some welcome rains over SE TX with the front


This is also normal because these rains are the first time in a week it has rained during the day... and OF COURSE the rain is the same day I'm getting my sprinkler system installed.

WTF.
Member Since: August 3, 2008 Posts: 16 Comments: 5891
1354: Asked if there is a danger of a meltdown at the Fukushima plant, nuclear safety expert Toshihiro Bannai adds: "On units one and three there is a possibility they are partially damaged in the core. However at this point, monitoring indications doesn't indicate damage of the core."

So there you have the definitive word: the reactor cores have been breached, or they haven't. And they may be spewing plumes of radioactivity, or they may not.

Feel better now? ;-)
Member Since: November 8, 2009 Posts: 4 Comments: 13803
Just to get a sense of normalcy back in the mix... some welcome rains over SE TX with the front

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Scratch comment 27.
I am confused. Jeffs713's information is correct.
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Quoting jeffs713:

The "Troy Event" was in the 50s, from the aboveground detonation of a nuclear warhead in the Nevada desert. It is a different situation, since the radioactive particles were injected directly into the stratosphere by the nuclear blast itself. For these, they have to go from 100-300m AGL, get into the jet stream, and cross the Pacific Ocean - and not get rained out. It is possible, but less likely.


Chinese nuke test. 1966.
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"Is there any point to which you would wish to draw my attention?"
"To the curious incident of the dog in the night-time."
"The dog did nothing in the night-time."
"That was the curious incident,"

Ya know what's really disturbing? All those pictures and videos from Japan of people wandering amidst the wreckage and of survivors and refugees...
...and an extreme paucity of school-age children within those pictures, an extreme scarcity of even highschool-age pre-adults.
Member Since: August 21, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 4860
Quoting stillwaiting:
hey doc,you stated that it was unlikely to travel 2000 miles,in 1966 their was radation rain in he US,caused by the chinese,i believe the "troy" event,so why wouldnt this make it to the US time??

The "Troy Event" was in the 50s, from the aboveground detonation of a nuclear warhead in the Nevada desert. It is a different situation, since the radioactive particles were injected directly into the stratosphere by the nuclear blast itself. For these, they have to go from 100-300m AGL, get into the jet stream, and cross the Pacific Ocean - and not get rained out. It is possible, but less likely.
Member Since: August 3, 2008 Posts: 16 Comments: 5891
Quoting P451:
I agree Jeff.

Well, there is one positive.

Anyone see the 60 year old man they plucked from his roof?

He was found on his roof... NINE MILES OUT TO SEA.

In a way, that is highly amusing. In another way, terribly saddening, since you know that man will be VERY mentally scarred for the rest of his life, and also because if he was found 9 miles out to sea, you know there are countless others who were not so lucky to have a floating roof.
Member Since: August 3, 2008 Posts: 16 Comments: 5891
hey doc,you stated that it was unlikely to travel 2000 miles,in 1966 their was radation rain in he US,caused by the chinese,i believe the "troy" event,so why wouldnt this make it to the US in time??
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Quoting P451:


We have no choice but to use nuclear power. Populations are exploding and we cannot afford to rely on, let alone build more, gas oil and coal fired power plants.

Until the next greatest way to produce energy puts Nuclear power in the past we simply have no choice but to use it.

Imagine decommissioning all nuclear facilities worldwide and building enough coal plants to pick up the slack?

It might please the AGW crowd for they might then be proven correct as we all choke to death on particulate matter from coal and oil being burned to create electricity.

Unfortunately the bottom line is we have NO CHOICE but to rely on nuclear power and continue to develop it.

Looking at Japan's problems it would seem it wasn't necessarily the earthquake that caused these reactors to face meltdown but rather the tsunami.

So you question the placement of the plants not the actual building of them.


Oh, I totally understand. Even steam is bad. But steam is better than smoke, especially in this situation.

Steam = fuel rods are exposed, but not in full meltdown, moderate amount of radioactive particulates.
Smoke = fuel rods are basically molten, extremely high amount of radioactive particulates, and the core is fully melted down.

I'll take steam for 500 please, Alex.
Member Since: August 3, 2008 Posts: 16 Comments: 5891
Quoting P451:


We have no choice but to use nuclear power. Populations are exploding and we cannot afford to rely on, let alone build more, gas oil and coal fired power plants.

Until the next greatest way to produce energy puts Nuclear power in the past we simply have no choice but to use it.

Imagine decommissioning all nuclear facilities worldwide and building enough coal plants to pick up the slack?

It might please the AGW crowd for they might then be proven correct as we all choke to death on particulate matter from coal and oil being burned to create electricity.

Unfortunately the bottom line is we have NO CHOICE but to rely on nuclear power and continue to develop it.

Looking at Japan's problems it would seem it wasn't necessarily the earthquake that caused these reactors to face meltdown but rather the tsunami.

So you question the placement of the plants not the actual building of them.



Nope, there are lots of other alternatives besides coal and oil. Solar and wind, along with an infrastructure that works with those sources. Or heat in winter supplied by pellet stoves for example (I know, I have one and it works brilliantly except on the floors of the bottom level).

The big problem is not residential but heavy transportation and industrial use.
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Quoting jeffs713:

You also question the wisdom of placing backup generators in a basement on the coastline. (regardless of tsunamis, you never want your backup system in a position to be buried while in a high-danger earthquake zone)


From another source regarding the placement of the backup generators at Fukushima.

World Nuclear News


...The tsunami wave that hit the plant measured at least 7 metres in height, compared to the maximum 6.5 metre case the plant was designed to cope with....


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Quoting P451:


We have no choice but to use nuclear power. Populations are exploding and we cannot afford to rely on, let alone build more, gas oil and coal fired power plants.

Until the next greatest way to produce energy puts Nuclear power in the past we simply have no choice but to use it.

Imagine decommissioning all nuclear facilities worldwide and building enough coal plants to pick up the slack?

It might please the AGW crowd for they might then be proven correct as we all choke to death on particulate matter from coal and oil being burned to create electricity.

Unfortunately the bottom line is we have NO CHOICE but to rely on nuclear power and continue to develop it.

Looking at Japan's problems it would seem it wasn't necessarily the earthquake that caused these reactors to face meltdown but rather the tsunami.

So you question the placement of the plants not the actual building of them.


You also question the wisdom of placing backup generators in a basement on the coastline. (regardless of tsunamis, you never want your backup system in a position to be buried while in a high-danger earthquake zone)
Member Since: August 3, 2008 Posts: 16 Comments: 5891
Quoting ParkerPark:
Why don't we try and think positive for a change?

There is a line between thiking positively, being pragmatic, and burying your head in the sand. Personally, I'm hopeful, but being pragmatic. I will not be delusional and think that everything is all rosy, and that there is no danger from a radiation release.

Anyone who refuses to face reality, and buries their head in the sand thinking nothing will happen is clearly delusional and in denial of reality.
Member Since: August 3, 2008 Posts: 16 Comments: 5891
Why don't we try and think positive for a change?
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Quoting emcf30:
According to Michio Kaku, PhD stated on GMA that there are reports that reactor #3 MAY HAVE suffed a 90% uncovering of its core. Also they showed a very clear satelite photo, courtesy: Digital Globe of the reactor building after the explosion. There is a decent white plume emitting from that building. Do not know how long after the explosion it was taken.

If the reactor containment vessel is intact (it most likely is), then the white plume is steam.
Member Since: August 3, 2008 Posts: 16 Comments: 5891
A Senator is saying that we should hold off on nuclear for right now and thankfully so.

Link
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Jeff co-founded the Weather Underground in 1995 while working on his Ph.D. He flew with the NOAA Hurricane Hunters from 1986-1990.

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