Carolinas utilities report radiation from Japan

Posted March 28, 2011

— Utilities in North and South Carolina have reported trace amounts of radiation from a nuclear reactor in Japan that was damaged by an earthquake and tsunami.

Progress Energy and Duke Energy in North Carolina and South Carolina Electric and Gas Co. say they've detected trace amounts of radiation that has been carried on the jet stream across the Pacific Ocean and the U.S. following the damage to the reactor almost three weeks ago.

Progress Energy says it picked up low levels of iodine-131, a radioactive byproduct of nuclear fission, at its nuclear plant in South Carolina and a Florida plant. Duke Energy reported low iodine-131 levels at its plants near Lake Norman and in South Carolina.

The utilities regularly check for radiation contamination according to standards set by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

"We just happen to be the facilities with the most sensitive monitoring equipment. So, as we get these readings every week, we've been reporting them to appropriate agencies so they can take whatever action is deemed appropriate as far as informing the public," Progress Energy spokesman Mike Hughes said Monday. "None of them has deemed to this point that there is any impact on public health and environment."

Officials with the state Division of Environmental Health said someone would have to breathe air with the elevated levels of radiation reported for 2,000 years to get the same exposure as a single X-ray.

Carolinas utilities report radiation from Japan

“The public’s health is always our top priority,” State Health Director Dr. Jeff Engel said in a statement. “At this time, the radiation levels detected in North Carolina represent no risk to human health. On any given day, we are exposed to much higher levels of radiation than these from natural sources like the sun.”

Still, the Division of Environmental Health is analyzing air samples from around North Carolina daily for possible radiation, and technicians also are checking water, milk, shellfish and vegetation for signs of contamination.

“It is not unexpected that North Carolina would see very low levels of radiation following the nuclear incident in Japan,” Lee Cox, chief of the state Radiation Protection Section, said in a statement. “Similar levels of radioisotopes were found in North Carolina following the 1986 incident at the Chernobyl plant in Russia.”

Massachusetts, Nevada and other Western states also have reported minuscule amounts of radiation.

Radiation will likely be reported around the Shearon Harris nuclear plant in southwest Wake County as well, Hughes said.


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  • fkhaywood Mar 29, 2011

    Last fall, I visited a wind turbine farm near Thomas, West Virginia. They have 44-1.5 megawatt units there; it would take 600 of these units to have the same electrical capacity as is produced at Shearon Harris plant. How is that for clean energy?
    --an Electrical Engineer--

  • Capt Mercury Mar 29, 2011

    The banana thing is a smoke screen. You could also say Brazil nuts are more radioactive than a nuclear plant, as long as that nuclear plant is 20 miles away. Yes, we are all irradiated by nature to some degree. But, just as we are adding CO2 to the atmosphere and increasing the greenhouse effect, we are adding alpha, beta, and gamma emitters to the environment that add to the natural radiation. I just heard some talking head on TV say that dumping the radioactive water from the Daiichi plant in Japan will not harm the US. Maybe not in a big way, and maybe not immediately. But it adds to a growing problem.

  • hi_i_am_wade Mar 28, 2011

    I'm more worried about being struck by lightning twice on a clear day. This is a fact, you'll get more radiation eating 1 banana than from the nuclear plant. Don't believe me? Read these links.


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  • smcallah Mar 28, 2011

    "I wonder how many people are aware of how close Shearon-Harris was built near the Jonesboro Fault. Sure, sure...the experts will tell you there is no risk. Just like the experts in Japan convinced the population that there was no risk."

    I wonder how many people STILL FAIL TO REALIZE that it was the TSUNAMI that destroyed the backup generator for the coolant systems in the reactors, and not the earthquake itself? The reactors in Japan survived the earthquake as they had planned. They did not however consider that a tsunami could drown the backup generators.

    I seriously doubt that same combination of disasters would strike Shearon-Harris.

  • smcallah Mar 28, 2011

    "What would you have the "nuclear experts" tell you? Maybe that the trace amount is going to stay around for a couple of hundred years until it decays. Would that make you feel better?"

    Radioactive Iodine, Iodine-131, which is what is being detected, and the only thing that will make it into the atmosphere from this, has a half-life of 8 days, meaning it will only be radioactive for 16 days.

    The same radioactivity was detected from Chernobyl which had a catastrophic explosion, core breach, and meltdown.

    The material that can stick around for longer is in Japan, that is the plutonium that they have found in the soil. That is too heavy to travel by air.

    The reason you take Iodine pills if you live CLOSE to a nuclear reactor meltdown is because you may not be able to get yourself away from the Iodine-131 emissions or you may be drinking them, for longer than 16 days, and you want the normal Iodine in your thyroid so that Iodine-131 doesn't get in there.

  • Bring on the 4 Dollar Gas Mar 28, 2011

    If it's trace amounts, and it can't even be that because California is detecting less than you say you are, how in the world do they know it's from Japan? Does it have a Japanese seal of approval on it?

    Good gosh put the glue down.

  • voiceofreason32 Mar 28, 2011

    I am for any clean energy, but only if it still powers my playstation and internet connection

  • wdprice3 Mar 28, 2011

    "We should be investing in clean energy."

    So Jason, what should we invest in? What power source will provide, "clean" energy, at an affordable cost, be consistent, deliver the amounts of energy needed, and be easily upgraded for future demand?

  • The Fox Mar 28, 2011

    [Why don't we the people have radiation detectors of our own?] Well I do. Nothing above background but it's hard to measure a small amount of a beta emitter with a half life of 8 days.

    Relax, have a little extra iodine salt on your MacDonalds fries and go about your lives.