March 16, 2011
Events in Japan: What does it mean for Vermont?
Although we are far away from Japan, many people here in Vermont are worried about the consequences of radiation releases from nuclear power plants damaged by the tremendous earthquake and tsunami there on March 11.
State and federal experts in radiological health, emergency response and nuclear reactors are watching this situation closely.
Harmful amounts of radiation are not expected to reach as far as the U.S., and no health risks are expected for people in this country.
Radiation levels will only be high enough to cause illness in people who are much closer to the release. People in Japan and perhaps others near Japan may be exposed to enough excess radiation over enough time to cause health effects now or later in life.
People in Vermont are too far away to breathe in, eat, or otherwise be exposed to the radioactivity from Japan.
There is no need for people here to take any special action. There is no need to take KI (potassium iodide). Taking KI when it is not needed will not help, and can be life-threatening for some people.
The assessment of risk is based on an understanding of events in Japan so far, and on experience with the very significant release at Chernobyl in 1986 and above-ground nuclear weapons testing in Nevada for decades after World War II.
As a precaution, EPA stations on the West coast and across the states are monitoring for radiation in air and water.
There is a chance that minute amounts of radioactivity, too low to be detected, may travel through air and slowly accumulate over time in Vermont soil, sediment and fungi.
Radioactivity is unlikely to be detected in air samples because, as with Chernobyl and above-ground weapons testing in Nevada, concentrations in the air may be too low. This is due to the great distance that radioactive material would have to travel in the air between Japan and Vermont, Chernobyl and Vermont, and even Nevada and Vermont.
Radiation Monitoring in Vermont
In Vermont, we have been tracking radiation levels in the environment since 1970, before Vermont Yankee Nuclear Power Station was built, and we will continue to do so. Over that time, highly sensitive instruments have been used to measure all forms of radioactivity in thousands of samples of the air, milk, water, soil, vegetation and river sediment around Vermont Yankee and elsewhere in the state.
From this we know that soil, sediment and fungi sample results have shown concentrations of radioactive fallout, particularly radioactive cesium from weapons testing. These concentrations decreased over time.
After the 1986 Chernobyl reactor accident in the former Soviet Union, radioactive cesium levels increased as fallout drifted around the world and settled to the ground. Although measurable above background at that time, the quantities of radioactivity were very small. These concentrations have been declining since 1986 as well.
Radiological Emergency Preparedness in Vermont
Vermont has radiological emergency plans and dedicated response resources, both for Vermont Yankee and for radiological or nuclear incidents not related to Vermont Yankee. These response plans, responders and resources are well practiced and ready should they ever be needed.
The Health Department’s potassium iodide (KI) pre-distribution program for people living in the six towns of the Emergency Planning Zone around Vermont Yankee is part of the state’s extensive preparedness planning for Vermont Yankee. Visit the KI Distribution Program website for more information.
For more information–
- about radiation, radiological health, and radiological emergencies, go to the Vermont Department of Health
- about state emergency preparedness plans and response, go to Vermont Emergency Management
Join in the Relief Efforts–
Vermonters can join in the relief effort by donating to support Japan Tsunami Response. Go to: http://www.interaction.org/