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The quake and tsunami that followed have left hundreds of thousands homeless across Japan. The death toll stands at 4,000, but more than 7,000 are listed as missing and the figure is expected to rise.
Close to 200 emergency workers are workingto cool overheating fuel in reactors inside the quake-damaged Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant.
San Diego State University professor Murray Jennex, who has two decades of experience testing nuclear power facilities, said in order for radioactive materials to pose a risk to residents of the West Coast, an explosion would need to blow fuel material high up into the atmosphere.
“Because they have a containment structure, that won’t happen,” Jennex said.
“So we’re not worried about that,” he said.
As for flights crossing that area of the world on their way to San Diego, Los Angeles or San Francisco, the risk of contamination is small according to Jennex.
“It depends on what their flight path was. These particles are not getting 25,000 or 30,000 feet into the air,” he said. “If you’re flying over Japan there is no real risk at all.”
Those planes that may be coming in lower and cutting through that air space may carry some contamination outside the plane Jennex said.
The risk for the food supply is great only to the immediate area surrounding the plant.
The radioactive materials are heavy particles, metals coming from a turbine.
“They’re not going to carry a long ways,” Jennex said.
“If they were to get it into the groundwater, they’d have to do regular testing to see where it’s migrating to and where it’s coming up from. If it’s coming up from and getting absorbed into the plants you’re eating, yes you don’t want to be eating those foods,” he said.
If you still have concerns about your risk of radiation, Jennex will share more information when he appears on NBCSanDiego Wednesday at 4 p.m.