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Could Japan’s Radiation Make It Here?

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South Korean passengers walk past a TV reporting an explosion and feared meltdown of Japan's Fukushima-Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant after a massive quake, at a railway station in Seoul on March 16, 2011. South Korea said it plans to send an emergency shipment of cooling material to Japan to help control its quake-damaged nuclear reactors. (Photo credit should read JUNG YEON-JE/AFP/Getty Images)

South Korean passengers walk past a TV reporting an explosion and feared meltdown of Japan’s Fukushima-Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant after a massive quake, at a railway station in Seoul on March 16, 2011. South Korea said it plans to send an emergency shipment of cooling material to Japan to help control its quake-damaged nuclear reactors. (Photo credit should read JUNG YEON-JE/AFP/Getty Images)

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Written by Meteorologist Dave Aguilera

DENVER (CBS4) – Could Japan’s radiation make it here?

 The answer right now is  maybe. Japanese nuclear reactors are continuing to leak radiation. In fact, radiation has been detected as far out as 100 to 200 miles out to sea from Japan. Now the question is posed, can that radiation make it to the United States?

 If  it does it would have to do it by radioactive particles getting caught up in the jet stream. The jet stream can occasionally flow right over Japan across the Pacific and right into the United States. At this point the only saving grace is the most of the radioactive particles have not made it to the upper level winds of the jet stream.

Expert forecasters say that the only way these particles could get caught in the jet stream, in the short-term, is if there is some kind of big push. That big push would be an explosion caused by a total meltdown of the nuclear reactors. In that kind of situation  the reactor would be like a huge erupting volcano spewing great amounts of radioactive particles up into the sky. The jet stream winds flow between 30,000 to 50,000 feet up in the sky. So it would take a tremendous amount of energy for this to happen. At this point that has not happened.

Visit CBSNews.com for the latest on the aftermath of the earthquake and tsunami in Japan.

The other possible route that radiation could take would be a long-term route, meaning if the reactors leak radiation over a period of several weeks or months, some low-level radiation may eventually work its way up into the upper levels of the atmosphere. This scenario is hard to predict or forecast.

So there seems to be two answers to the question. In the short-term it seems that there is no indication of radiation making it into the jet stream and consequently into the United States. Unless there is a nuclear plant that has a total meltdown and explosion.

The second answer would be maybe. Over the long-term some low-level radiation could manage to make it to the U.S. depending upon the length of the leak and the prevailing winds.

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