Faint traces of very low levels of radiation from the stricken nuclear complex in Japan have been detected in Sacramento, California, European officials reported on Friday, bringing the distant atomic crisis to U.S. shores for the first time.

The readings, picked up by highly-sensitive detectors set up to monitor clandestine nuclear blasts, were the first solid evidence of the leading edge of a long radioactive plume that has drifted slowly across the Pacific with the prevailing winds over the past week has reached the continental United States.


Health experts said the plume's radiation had been diluted enormously in its journey across thousands of miles and at least for now, with concentrations very low would have no health consequences in the U.S. In a similar way, radiation from the Chernobyl disaster spread around the globe and reached the West Coast of the U.S. in 10 days, its levels detectable but minuscule.

Late Friday, the Department of Energy confirmed the European statements about the arrival of the radioactive plume in Sacramento, saying the federal station there detected “minuscule quantities” of radiation that posed no health hazard.

But the Obama administration's initial reluctance to release its own radiation information and the haphazard way that the detector readings came dribbling out of Europe first not the U.S. raised questions about whether U.S. officials were being as forthcoming as they had pressed the Japanese to be. — New York Times News Service


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