Drawing on research from the Chernobyl meltdown in 1986, scientists say that for most Japanese, the long term risk may lie in drinking milk and water or eating food, as well as direct exposure to contaminated soil. Environmentalist Donald Milton says, "Even in most of the Ukraine and in larger areas of Europe after Chernobyl, the major routes of exposure were not directly from the air, but rather through food, especially milk, produced from contaminated areas, and from fallout deposited on the ground."
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We recently wrote that it’s not yet time to take iodine, and that’s probably still true. While a plume of radiation IS heading towards the West Coast, nuclear experts say it will become diluted along the way and will cause only very minor health problems in the US. Radiation from the 1986 Chernobyl disaster reached the West Coast in 10 days, but at that point, the radiation contained in the cloud was a tiny amount.
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The spent fuel rods that have been exposed to the air at reactor 4 at the Fukushima power plant have begun emitting "extremely high" levels of radiation according to US officials. This means that they have almost certainly gone critical.

A Tokyo Electric Power representative has said that "the possibility of recriticality is not zero" because of an unexpected fall in water levels in the pool storing the rods. Because the material is now apparently critical, it could explode. If so, this would be the third nuclear explosion on Japanese soil, after the US dropped bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August of 1945.
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Germany has shut down seven of its nuclear reactors that are the same design as the Japanese reactors that have failed. It has ordered a safety review at all 17 reactors in the country. And last month congress voted to provide a $4 billion loan guarantee for two new nuclear reactors to be built and operated on the Gulf Coast of Texas by TEPCO, the Japanese company that built the reactors that have experienced meltdown.
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