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Federal agencies are beefing up their radiation-monitoring capabilities at home and abroad, even as they insist that significant amounts of fallout won’t waft from Japan onto U.S. territory.
At home, the Environmental Protection Agency said it's adding seven monitors in Alaska, Hawaii and Guam to its RadNet radiation-tracking system, which operates about 100 air-sniffing stations nationwide. Putting in those extra stations "allows us to gather data from a position closer to Japan," EPA said in an online question-and-answer guide.
Looking beyond America's borders, the U.S. Air Force is sending out a high-tech aircraft to sniff the air over Japan for radiation. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission and the Department of Energy's National Nuclear Security Administration are also sending experts to Japan to help counter the growing crisis at Japan's Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant complex.
The radioactive plume from Fukushima's reactors can't be detected by satellites in orbit, but it can be tracked by the U.S. Air Force's Constant Phoenix WC-135 jets, which are designed to monitor airborne fallout from nuclear weapons tests. Constant Phoenix came into play after the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear disaster in Ukraine to sample the air over the Atlantic.....an Air Force spokesman, Maj. Chad Steffey ... confirmed that a Constant Phoenix WC-135 would be sent to sample the air wafting from Japan, in response to a Japanese government request. The planes would be brought from Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska. Steffey said he didn't yet have details about the timing of the operation.
Speaking on condition of anonymity, a senior U.S. defense official told NBC News that Constant Phoenix's involvement was "absolutely" a significant event. "We are using it to help out a nation," the official said. "It's significant." . cosmiclog.msnbc.msn.com...
The WC-135W Constant Phoenix atmospheric collection aircraft supports national level consumers by collecting particulate and gaseous effluents and debris from accessible regions of the atmosphere in support of the Limited Nuclear Test Ban Treaty of 1963.
The aircraft is a modified C-135B or EC-135C platform. The Constant Phoenix's modifications are primarily related to its on-board atmospheric collection suite, which allows the mission crew to detect radioactive "clouds" in real time. The aircraft is equipped with external flow-through devices to collect particulates on filter paper and a compressor system for whole air samples collected in holding spheres.
The cockpit crew is from the 45th Reconnaissance Squadron at Offutt Air Force Base, Neb., and special equipment operators are assigned to Det. 1, Air Force Technical Applications Center at Offutt AFB.
Update for 1:50 a.m. ET March 17: The New York Times reports that the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization, a U.N. agency based in Vienna, has drawn up a simulation showing the progress of Fukushima's radioactive plume across the Pacific. Assuming that the plume began to rise on Saturday, and assuming that the radiation levels were detectable, the readings might be picked up in Alaska's Aleutian Islands today (Thursday) and in Southern California late Friday, the Times reported.
U.S. officials have told NBC News that they're seeing a disparity between Japanese radiation readings and the readings they've been getting from military monitors.
Since then, the data on radiation releases suggest a range of outcomes, going all the way up to "dire," the officials said. They spoke with NBC on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the findings publicly.
Intelligence experts also tell NBC News that the United States has a network of ground-level stations around the world that monitor radiation and can backtrack to calculate how much has been dispersed from a specific site.
Originally posted by Hefficide
U.S. officials have told NBC News...
BERKELEY, Calif. (KGO) -- Officials are trying to calm nerves in California by reassuring everyone there is no serious threat of radiation from Japan after reports from some scientists that radiation particles in the jet stream will reach Los Angeles by Friday. The federal government has moved more monitoring stations to the west coast to help in that effort.
Scientists will know the air is from Japan if they find traces of radioactive isotopes like Cesium 137, which caused serious health damage after Chernobyl. Many experts say what is happening in Japan is nowhere near that level of disaster.
Caesium-137 is water-soluble and chemically toxic in small amounts. The biological behavior of caesium-137 is similar to that of potassium and rubidium. After entering the body, caesium gets more or less uniformly distributed through the body, with higher concentration in muscle tissues and lower in bones. The biological half-life of caesium is rather short at about 70 days. Experiments with dogs showed that a single dose of 3800 μCi/kg (approx. 44 μg/kg of caesium-137) is lethal within three weeks.
Accidental ingestion of caesium-137 can be treated with the chemical Prussian blue, which binds to it chemically and then speeds its expulsion from the body.
Prussian blue is a dark blue pigment with the idealized formula Fe7(CN)18⋅14H2O. Another name for the color Prussian blue is Berlin blue or, in painting, Parisian blue. Turnbull's blue is the same substance but is made from different reagents.
Prussian blue is one of the first synthetic pigments. It is famously complex, owing to the presence of variable amounts of other ions and the sensitive dependence of its appearance on the size of the particles. The pigment is used in paints, and it is the traditional "blue" in blueprints. It has been used as an antidote for certain kinds of heavy metal poisoning.
Prussian blue lent its name to prussic acid, which was derived from it, and to ferrocyanide (originally meaning "blue compound of iron", from Latin ferrum and Greek κυανεος). As ferrocyanide is made of iron and CN radicals, reinterpreting the component "-cyanide" in the compound word produced the word "cyanide" for compounds containing the CN radical.
Speaking at UC Berkeley Thursday, Benjamin tried to calm fears.
"There's no reason to be afraid right now because the harmful levels are not heading in our direction," Benjamin said.
Scientists in Berkeley will get the first results Thursday evening, but they are not expected to say much. The real results will come Friday or the following day, when and if those particles from Japan may hit the West Coast
Originally posted by Hefficide
It also suggests that the Government is taking North American exposure risks seriously. More seriously than we are being led to believe.
Thoughts on this denizens of ATS?