Thursday, March 31, 2011

It’s here!

Grass clippings from the Dresden nuclear power plant showed traces of a radiation associated with the nuclear power plants in Japan damaged by earthquake and tsunami. Aerial image provided by U.S. Geographic Society.

I must confess to being surprised at the reports about radiation from Japan being found in the outer fringes of the Chicago-area, along with Springfield.

Of course, those levels are so minute that no one thinks we’re suddenly at risk of being infected by radiation from the nuclear power plants that were damaged from the earthquake that caused a tsunami that caused the devastation across the island nation of Japan.

THOSE OF US who have been paying attention hear the daily reports of the recovery efforts. My daily check of The Weather Channel literally gives me an update of how the wind is blowing the radiation around, at times sending it out to sea where we are given the impression that such flow takes it away from people.

What it really does is sends it across the Pacific Ocean, where it eventually reaches the west coast, then works its way across the continental United States. It may be a big planet in one sense, but it truly is ONE planet.

We’re all interconnected, no matter how much we want to think there are barriers keeping us apart.

The fact that traces of radioiodine 131 – an isotope typically found in the nuclear plants in Japan – are being found in several states should not be surprising if we think about it logically.

WHICH MEANS I must confess that my initial surprise makes no sense. I should have known better.

For the record, the Daily Herald newspaper of suburban Arlington Heights reported that traces of the isotope were found last month during testing of grass clippings at the Dresden power plant near Morris and of the air at the Argonne National Laboratory near Darien, in addition to another sample that turned up in the air around the Illinois Emergency Management Agency radiochemistry laboratory on the far south side of Springfield – which happens to be the most remote part of town and the one farthest from the Illinois Statehouse.

So no, we can’t blame Japanese radiation for causing political stupidity – such as voting to repeal the indoor smoking ban at riverboat casinos – amongst our state legislators. That lack of common sense the General Assembly shows at times is purely their own idiocy traits at work.

We also shouldn’t think ourselves so far inland from the Pacific Ocean that we couldn’t be reached, considering that traces have also turned up in places in Alabama and South Carolina --- where the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean are the significant bodies of water with proximity.

WHAT THE DISTANCE has done is allow for the radiation to decay to the point where we shouldn’t worry about our food or water being tainted. The Daily Herald found one Argonne engineer who said the level of radiation we’re exposed to is less than we get hit with when x-rays are done.

I’m also pleased to learn that we have such regulatory requirements that testing for these samples is a routine procedure. So if a problem arises, someone is going to learn about it pretty quick.

Although in this case, the Illinois EMA (headed by Illinois State Police director-reject Jonathan Monken) said the state government is increasing its monitoring program ever since the earthquake/tsunami combo caused the nuclear power problems that threaten to extend the length of time it takes that nation to recover from the natural disaster.

Perhaps our handling of the situation is proper. It definitely is encouraging. Albeit the levels found in Illinois in recent days are 200,000 times lower than the limits that would be considered a potential problem. So Monken hasn’t exactly been confronted with a catastrophe.


It won’t be our ignorance of a situation that causes us problems in the future. It would be the lack of action to the information that is available that causes an emergency situation to develop in the future.

Perhaps now, we also realize the situation in Japan isn’t just a Japanese problem, but one we too should be keeping an eye upon, particularly every time we mow our lawns and wonder if our mulch that we’re disposing of has any levels of radioactivity.

Or even worse, if all that green grass we watch on Friday as professional baseball clubs begin the 2011 season is somehow tainted.


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