Favorable winds over Japan carrying radioactivity out to sea

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 2:16 PM GMT on March 16, 2011

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If there is going to be a major nuclear disaster with massive release of radioactivity into the atmosphere from Japan's stricken Fukushima nuclear plant, today would be the best day meteorologically for this to occur. The low pressure system that brought rain and several inches of snow to Japan yesterday has moved northeastwards out to sea, and high pressure is building in. The clockwise flow of air around the high pressure system approaching Japan from the southwest is driving strong northwesterly winds of 10 - 20 mph over the region. These winds will continue through Thursday, and will take radiation particles emitted by the stricken reactors immediately out to sea, without lingering over Japan. Since high pressure systems are regions of sinking air, the radiation will stay close to the ocean surface as the air spirals clockwise over the Pacific. The contaminated air will remain over the ocean for at least five days, which is plenty of time for the radiation to settle out to the surface.


Figure 1. Surface weather map for 8am EDT today, taken from the 6-hour forecast from this morning's 6 UTC run of the GFS model. A high pressure system to the southwest of Japan, in combination with a low pressure system to the northeast are driving strong northwesterly surface winds over the country. Image is from our wundermap with the "Model" layer turned on. The lines are sea-level pressure (blue contours, 4 mb interval) and 1000 to 500 mb thickness (yellow contours, 60 m interval). Thickness is a measure of the temperature of the lower atmosphere, and a thickness of 5400 meters is usually close to where the dividing line between rain and snow occurs.

Thursday night and Friday morning (U.S. time), the high pressure system moves over Japan, allowing winds to weaken and potentially grow calm, increasing the danger of radioactivity building up over regions near and to the north of the nuclear plant. On Friday, the high departs and a moist southwesterly flow of air will affect Japan. These southwesterly winds will blow most of the radiation out to sea, away from Tokyo. Southwesterly winds will continue through Sunday, when the next major low pressure system is expected to bring heavy precipitation to the country. Beginning Thursday night, the sinking airmass over Japan will be replaced a large-scale area of rising air, and any radiation emitted late Thursday through Friday will be carried aloft towards Alaska and eastern Russia by this southwesterly flow of rising air.

Ground-level releases of radioactivity are typically not able to be transported long distances in significant quantities, since most of the material settles to the ground a few kilometers from the source. If there is a major explosion with hot gases that shoots radioactivity several hundred meters high, that would increase the chances for long range transport, since now the ground is farther away, and the particles that start settling out will stay in the air longer before encountering the ground. Additionally, winds are stronger away from ground, due to reduced friction and presence of the jet stream aloft. These stronger winds will transport radioactivity greater distances. I've made trajectory plots for the next three days assuming two possible release altitudes--a surface-based release near 10 meters, which should be the predominant altitude in the current situation, and a higher release altitude of 300 meters, which might occur from an explosion and fire from a Chernobyl-style incident. Given that the radioactivity has to travel 3000 miles to reach Anchorage, Alaska, and 5000 miles to reach California, a very large amount of dilution will occur, along with potential loss due to rain-out. Any radiation at current levels of emission that might reach these places may not even be detectable, much less be a threat to human health. A Chernobyl-level disaster in Japan would certainly be able to produce detectable levels of radiation over North America, but I strongly doubt it would be a significant concern for human health. The Chernobyl disaster only caused dangerous human health impacts within a few hundred miles of the disaster site, and the distance from Japan to North America is ten times farther than that.


Figure 2. Five-day forecast movement of plumes of radioactive air emitted at 10 meters altitude (red line) and 300 meters (blue line) at 18 UTC (2pm EDT) Wednesday, March 16, 2011 from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant. The plumes spiral clockwise around the high pressure system to the southwest of Japan and stay near the surface. Images created using NOAA's HYSPLIT trajectory model.


Figure 3. Five-day forecast movement of plumes of radioactive air emitted at 10 meters altitude (red line) and 300 meters (blue line) at 18 UTC (2pm EDT) Thursday, March 17, 2011 from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant. The plumes initially spiral clockwise around the high pressure system to the southwest of Japan and stay near the surface. By Saturday, though, the plumes get caught in a southwesterly flow of air in advance of an approaching low pressure system. Ascending air lifts the plumes to high altitudes, where winds are stronger and rapid long-range transport occurs. Images created using NOAA's HYSPLIT trajectory model.


Figure 4. Five-day forecast movement of plumes of radioactive air emitted at 10 meters altitude (red line) and 300 meters (blue line) at 18 UTC (2pm EDT) Friday, March 18, 2011 from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant. The plumes get caught in a southwesterly flow of air in advance of an approaching low pressure system. The plume emitted near the surface (red line) stays trapped near the surface, but the plume emitted at 300 meters is lifted to 3.5 km altitude by the rising air associated with the approaching low pressure system. Images created using NOAA's HYSPLIT trajectory model.

Resources
Seven-day weather forecast for Sendai near the Fukushima nuclear plant

The Austrian Weather Service is running trajectory models for Japan.

Current radar loops from the Japan Meteorological Agency

Rare subtropical cyclone forms near Brazil
An unusual low pressure system that came close to becoming a tropical storm is in the South Atlantic, a few hundred miles east of the coast of Brazil. The Brazilian Navy Hydrographic Center has officially named the system Subtropical Storm "Arani", but I'm not sure the low would have been named by NHC, since Arani has somewhat of a loose circulation and limited heavy thunderstorm activity. The storm is expected to move slowly eastward out to sea, and does not pose a threat to South America. The latest run of the GFDL model shows little development of Arani, and the storm is now encountering a frontal system, which is bringing 20 - 30 knots of wind shear. It is unlikely that Arani will become a tropical storm. Some runs of the GFDL last weekend were predicting Arani would intensify into a Category 3 hurricane; that's the first time I've even seen such a prediction for a South Atlantic storm. The metsul.com blog has more info on Arani, for those of you who read Portugese.


Figure 5. During the daytime on Tuesday 15 March 2011 at 1820 UTC the TRMM satellite flew over a rare cyclone labeled Arani in the South Atlantic. Arani had the appearance of a tropical cyclone but has been classified as a subtropical cyclone. NOAA's Satellite and Information Service classified Arani as a T1 on the Dvorak intensity scale which would indicate an estimated wind speed of about 29 kt (~33 mph). TRMM's Microwave Imager (TMI) and Precipitation Radar (PR) data were used in the image above to show rainfall near Arani. Image credit: NASA.

Jeff Masters

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...OR pottery.... ; )
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16 signs - do I have radiation sickness?

AN Australian survivor of the Japan tsunami fears she may have radiation poisoning. But what are the danger signs?

DO I HAVE RADIATION SICKNESS?

- NAUSEA AND DIARRHOEA: Within 48 hours of mild exposure, vomiting and diarrhoea occur. Severe headaches. Loss of gut's protective lining exposes body to bacteria causing sepsis

- LOSS OF ENERGY, RAPID HEARTBEAT: Patient feels light-headed and weak. Shortness of breath and dry cough

- INCREASED RISK OF LEUKAEMIA, LUNG AND BREAST CANCER: Blood transfusions are a must following exposure. Increased chance of leukaemia within two years

- THYROID CANCER: The gland system is at the highest risk of infection. Potassium iodide used to minimise impact of radioactive particles

- IMMUNE SYSTEM BREAKDOWN: Can cause deadly infections. Blood transfusion and antibiotics required for treatment

- FALL IN RED AND WHITE BLOOD CELL COUNT: Radiation halts production of white blood cells, used by the body to fight disease, by destroying bone marrow. Remaining cells work temporarily until they die naturally. Bone-marrow transplants rejuvenate supply of white blood cells

- HORMONES AND GLANDS: Radiation-related illnesses can emerge up to 10 to 15 years after exposure. The body's hormonal system is particularly sensitive

- BONE CANCER: Radioactive elements gather in bones and bone marrow. Cancer can appear years after exposure

- LOSS OF HAIR AND TEETH: Hair can fall out, teeth can become loose and gums diseased even after mild exposure. Extreme exposure will cause loss of teeth

- INFLAMMATION OF THROAT AND MOUTH: Causes mouth sores and muscle inflammation

- SKIN BURNS AND BRUISING: Radiation causes burns and sores on the skin. Bruising may also appear. Ointments must not be used as treatment

- RADIATION DERMATITIS: Skin reaction can occur two months after exposure. Radiation acne can also appear. Also anaemia, hemorrhaging, bleeding under skin and permanent darkening of skin

- ORGAN DAMAGE: Affects liver, spleen and muscles. Can cause organ shutdown. Ions, known as "free radicals", enter blood, causing cell death, cancer and mutations

- DIGESTIVE DISORDERS: Radiation can have a long-term impact, causing ulcers in the oesophagus, stomach and intestines

- STERILITY: Minimum exposure causes temporary sterility (not impotence) in males and females. Extreme exposure can cause permanent sterility

- BABY DEFORMITIES AND INCREASED MORTALITY RATE: Pregnant women have increased chance of giving birth to stillborn or deformed babies, or infants with genetic problems. Children can have learning difficulties

- Those who survive six weeks after a single, large dose of radiation to the whole body may generally be expected to recover

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Quoting Grothar:


I'm confused.


And....?
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Quoting presslord:
Would someone please outline for me (in 3rd grade terms) the worst case scenario...and how close we are to it?

Worst Case? DOOM!
How close? SOON!
well, you did ask for the worst case....
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Quoting KEEPEROFTHEGATE:


ya rad steam quick cool fast to evaporate wont last long
i do not think we will see explosions per say
pressure can not build with every thing wide open
they may only be buying time in the end final result to be the same
unless they can completly submerge the rods and all other spend fuel in water and keep that water there


Hopes and prayers for that end!!

As I understand it, a complete containment failure will prohibit further efforts on the sister reactors which could multiply the disaster. Someone please tell me I have been misinformed!! Reactor #3 has plutonium and I remember from my college days that is a really bad thing to get released.
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Flood!!!! The perfect guy to explain something in 3rd grade terms...
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Quoting pottery:

as far as I know they are doing that, now/
thats good at least some stuff will come on some lights
maybe
a few pumps maybe some alarms
most of the electical equitment as suffered some type of damage pumps may have locked up from being out of snyc they got a hell of a mess there be surprized if anything works at all in the more severly damaged units
Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 170 Comments: 53618
Goodbye, HelloKitty...

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Quoting Matagordville:


Anyone know if the Chernobyl reactor and the Japanese reactor are the same type? Mark I (one) I believe?



Two totally different reactor designs; Chernobyl was an old Soviet military design
Member Since: August 2, 2006 Posts: 10 Comments: 9922
7.58am TOLL UPDATE: Six days after the earthquake struck, there's still no way to comprehend the scale of the disaster in terms of loss of human life. The most reliable estimate is an official "unaccounted for" tally of 12,920. Of those, 4314 are confirmed dead.

Outside of that are these likely large-scale losses:

* Ishinomaki in Miyagi prefecture - 10,000 missing
* Minamisanriku in Miyagi prefecture - 10,000 missing
* Honshu island - 55,000 homes destroyed

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Watch Japan NHK TV Live on English USTREAM

Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 423 Comments: 127919
Would someone please outline for me (in 3rd grade terms) the worst case scenario...and how close we are to it?
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Has anybody seen the Kurosawa movie 'Dreams'?

I saw it a long time ago, but I would say that it made a bigger impression on me than the 'China Syndrome' movie did. Only one of the 7 dreams in the film, "Mt. Fuji in Red", relates to this event, but it is worth watching if you have the time. Of course it is just a movie....

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8.19am The nuclear power quandary summed up neatly in two phrases by Reuters columnist Devra Davis. The president of the Environmental Health Trust and award-winning scientist balances this:

"Nuclear-powered energy appears to be one of the greenest forms of energy in the world, because it releases no carbon-containing greenhouse gases when working."

with this:

"Girls who worked hand-painting clock dials with luminescent radioactive paint and wet their brushes with their tongues to craft fine lines lost their jawbones years later."

Read more: http://www.news.com.au/world/magnitude-quake-strik es-japan/story-e6frfkyi-1226019903430#ixzz1GohffXT G
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Quoting twincomanche:


Gosh, at the end of the day I sure hope you're wrong.
me too friend
Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 170 Comments: 53618
Quoting EYEStoSEA:


do you know if they are still in the process of erecting new power lines...I believe I heard that ..

as far as I know they are doing that, now/
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I work for a company that employs approximately 500 people in Tokyo. They have been told that they will be evacuated out of Japan by the end of the week.
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Quoting EYEStoSEA:


do you think the white smoke after the helicopter water drop was just steam?


ya rad steam quick cool fast to evaporate wont last long
i do not think we will see explosions per say
pressure can not build with every thing wide open
they may only be buying time in the end final result to be the same
unless they can completly submerge the rods and all other spend fuel in water and keep that water there
Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 170 Comments: 53618
Post 543. Good post. Thanks for keeping it sane.
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Quoting pottery:

even if it is 'just steam' then that's not good...
It shows that the temps in there are pretty hot, and some of the water is being vaporized.
Looks like too little, too late to me.
But they HAVE to keep trying to cool this thing down.
Otherwise..... ?


do you know if they are still in the process of erecting new power lines...I believe I heard that ..
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Quoting KEEPEROFTHEGATE:
this will over shadow that my friend

Not in MY mind ...
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11.08am Apocalypse or alarmist? Professor Paddy Regan, Professor of Nuclear Physics at the University of Surrey, puts the "danger" to Tokyo in perspective.

"Tokyo is approx 200km from the edge of the Fukushima site. This means that, assuming that any radiation is spread out evenly if was to get airborne, the dose of radiation would be 1 part in approximately 40,000 of that seen at the edge of the plant (assumes that the edge of the plant is 1 km from the source). If this radiation kept up at this level for a full year (also extremely unlikely), this would translate to an ADDITIONAL dose of approximately 0.2 mSv/year for people in Tokyo (or about the same as a chest X-ray and about 1/10th of the annual dose UK people get from the environment).

Even the max values quoted so far (spikes at approx 200 msV/hour briefly at one on the reactors) translate to a maximum of approx 40 mSv per year which is approx 20msV, but still below the dose likely to cause significant increases in cancer."

To put that 20mSv in perspective, here's a handy cut-out-and-keep guide to mSvs (per year):

* 2mSv - typical background exposure from the environment
* 2.4 mSv - average dose to US nuclear industry workers
* 9 mSv - exposure to airline crew flying between New York and Tokyo
* 20 mSv - current limit (averaged) for nuclear industry employees and uranium miners
* 100mSv - lowest level at which any increase in cancer risk is clearly evident
* 1000mSv (1 sievert) - cumulative. Estimated to cause a fatal cancer many years later in 5 out of every 100 people exposed to it
* 1,000mSv (1 sievert) - single dose. Temporary radiation sickness - not fatal
* 5,000mSv (5 sieverts) - single dose. Fatal within a month to half of those who receive it
* 10,000mSv (10 sieverts) - single dose. Fatal within weeks


Read more: http://www.news.com.au/world/magnitude-quake-strik es-japan/story-e6frfkyi-1226019903430#ixzz1GogSg0J w
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Quoting EYEStoSEA:


do you think the white smoke after the helicopter water drop was just steam?

even if it is 'just steam' then that's not good...
It shows that the temps in there are pretty hot, and some of the water is being vaporized.
Looks like too little, too late to me.
But they HAVE to keep trying to cool this thing down.
Otherwise..... ?
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Two 5s off of Chile coastline last half hr. 5.1 & 5.4
Member Since: July 14, 2008 Posts: 1 Comments: 9628
Quoting GeoffreyWPB:


I'm not fretting over it. BTW, do you still call Mrs. Grothar you're "Little Magnolia"?


I'm confused.
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Quoting flsky:
Perhaps you are forgetting Hiroshima and Nagasaki....
this will over shadow that my friend
Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 170 Comments: 53618
Quoting KEEPEROFTHEGATE:
they will last 15 minutes each then off to reload more water


do you think the white smoke after the helicopter water drop was just steam?
Member Since: September 16, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 1492
Quoting EYEStoSEA:
12 high pressure water cannon trucks on the way to spray #3 and 4
they will last 15 minutes each then off to reload more water
Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 170 Comments: 53618
536. flsky
This was supposed to be quoting "Japan's darkest hour."
Quoting flsky:
Perhaps you are forgetting Hiroshima and Nagasaki....
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Quoting Grothar:


I'm back. You left early last night and you missed the best feed line you could ask for.


I'm not fretting over it. BTW, do you still call Mrs. Grothar you're "Little Magnolia"?
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534. flsky
Perhaps you are forgetting Hiroshima and Nagasaki....
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The pictures they showed of the streets in Tokyo were depressing. They were practically deserted. Very sad situation.
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Quoting GeoffreyWPB:
For those of you wondering, Grothar is in the finals of his Associations Shuffle-Board Tournament. He should be on shortly.


I'm back. You left early last night and you missed the best feed line you could ask for.
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Quoting Ossqss:
Some tidbits as absorbed between meetings today.

3 mile island - No direct radiation exposure deaths attributable to the accident. Albeit, there is some data that shows an increase in certain cancer rates down wind of the accident. Take it as you may.

Chernobyl - I find 31-140 directly attributable deaths due to exposure to radiation. I have also found figures from 4,000 to a million deaths related to indirect exposure to radiation via subsequent cancers. Take it as you may.

Additional info with respect to the spent fuel ponds burning in the current Japan problem, relate more to consumption of cesium as a fallout from what I can find to date. There are other pollutants, but that seems to be the primary factor to consider as so disclosed at this point. The plutonium fueled plant is the big concern there. Not sure which one, but I think #3? Take that as you may also.

Now the homework. What type of containment structure did Chernobyl have?

Don't take what I type as fact. Research it yourself and help us all learn more. We can use the exerciser on the subject, unfortunately !



Oss I am not sure of this but seems like it was some type of carbon containment structure that ended up burning itself.
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12 high pressure water cannon trucks on the way to spray #3 and 4
Member Since: September 16, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 1492
Quoting Patrap:
Sadly,,after 5 days now into the event the window on Survivability from the elements,and trauma is closing as well.

Rescue teams are not finding many survivors in the debris field,,save for remains.


We should take pause maybe and reflect on the ever growing scale of the numbers and families and communities suffering from the events of the past week.


The wunderground community is a large caring group and have shared many a calamity,and we strive for accuracy,sharing and caring.


We are all truly Japanese this day.
japans darkest hour
Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 170 Comments: 53618
That water from the choppers is not gonna cut it
Member Since: July 14, 2008 Posts: 1 Comments: 9628
Quoting pottery:

Ditto.


Good evening Sir!!
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Some tidbits as absorbed between meetings today.

3 mile island - No direct radiation exposure deaths attributable to the accident. Albeit, there is some data that shows an increase in certain cancer rates down wind of the accident. Take it as you may.

Chernobyl - I find 31-140 directly attributable deaths due to exposure to radiation. I have also found figures from 4,000 to a million deaths related to indirect exposure to radiation via subsequent cancers. Take it as you may.

Additional info with respect to the spent fuel ponds burning in the current Japan problem, relate more to consumption of cesium as a fallout from what I can find to date. There are other pollutants, but that seems to be the primary factor to consider as so disclosed at this point. The plutonium fueled plant is the big concern there. Not sure which one, but I think #3? Take that as you may also.

Now the homework. What type of containment structure did Chernobyl have?

Don't take what I type as fact. Research it yourself and help us all learn more. We can use the exerciser on the subject, unfortunately !

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Quoting traumaboyy:


+100

Well said Pat!!

Ditto.
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Quoting Patrap:
Sadly,,after 5 days now into the event the window on Survivability from the elements,and trauma is closing as well.

Rescue teams are not finding many survivors in the debris field,,save for remains.


We should take pause maybe and reflect on the ever growing scale of the numbers and families and communities suffering from the events of the past week.


The wunderground community is a large caring group and have shared many a calamity,and we strive for accuracy,sharing and caring.


We are all truly Japanese this day.


+100

Well said Pat!!
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#
0054: Toby Memmott, from Tokyo, writes: "A lot of people are leaving Tokyo and even Japan because they are worried about radiation exposure. The truth is there is widespread panic among the foreigners here that is fuelling a media frenzy that in itself is fuelling fear and unrest with the foreigners: a Catch 22 situation. The worst thing we can do right now is abandon the Japanese people and their economy. The ones who decide to stay are having to deal with an almost doubled workload because so many have left or are leaving. Those who leave will be able to come back in two to three weeks to their job like nothing ever happened. There are so many people in the north who lost everything but given a choice to leave Japan I don't think they would. Be smart and support Japan, don't just run away." Have Your Say
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Helicopters dropping water on #3
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As of late: 521 Aftershocks in Japan
Nuclear Reactors 1,2, and 3 Fukushima could meltdown in the next 12 hours...
Latest Aftershock a 5.7 offshore of Northeast Honshu... There's been about 45 Aftershocks in the last day... There's been 5 aftershocks west of Tokyo's longitude, 3 being magnitude 6, and 2 being magnitude 5...
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Member Since: September 2, 2007 Posts: 178 Comments: 20439
[4:25 p.m. ET Wednesday, 5:25 a.m. Thursday in Tokyo] A spent fuel pool at Japan's stricken Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant is dry, resulting in "extremely high" radiation levels, the head of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission said Wednesday.
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About

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