|Radiation testing in Japan © AFP|
WASHINGTON (AFP) - The US Nuclear Regulatory Commission sought to tamp down American fears of nuclear fallout, stressing Thursday there was no present radioactive risk to US territory from Japan's quake-stricken atomic reactor.
"All the available information continues to indicate Hawaii, Alaska, the US Territories and the US West Coast are not expected to experience any harmful levels of radioactivity," the NRC said.
The statement follows a day of near-panic buying of iodide pills in the United States, notably in California and Hawaii, the Pacific island state some 4,000 miles (6,500 kilometers) east of Japan.
Demand for potassium iodide, which can protect against the effects of radioactive iodine, surged on the US West Coast, where some fear a cloud spewing from Japan's Fukushima nuclear plant could be blown, drug company Anbex said.
The firm, which says it is the only US maker of the pills, was flooded with thousands of orders for its Iosat drug after last Friday's earthquake and tsunami, which has triggered an ongoing nuclear crisis.
"The spike is enormous... we were out of stock by Friday night," said Alan Morris, president of Anbex, which supplies the drug to individuals and retailers, including online.
Hawaiians also rushed to get iodide pills, store owners there said Wednesday.
US authorities have repeatedly said there is minimal risk of radioactivity reaching the US mainland, while meteorologists say it is difficult to predict exactly how far a radioactive cloud would spread across the Pacific.
California Department of Public Health's interim director, Howard Backer, also stressed the risks involved in taking potassium iodide unnecessarily.
But NRC commissioner Gregory Jaczko heightened concerns when he testified before the US Congress that there was no water left in the spent fuel pool at a the Fukushima plant's reactor 4, resulting in "extremely high" radiation levels.
The US Surgeon General Regina Benjamin may have accidentally poured fuel on the fire Tuesday during a visit to San Francisco, where she stressed that "We can't be overprepared -- we learned that with 9/11, we learned that with Katrina and we learned that this week with the tsunami."
A spokeswoman clarified her position, saying Benjamin "wouldn't recommend that anyone go out and purchase (the drug) for themselves at this time."
The NRC also said it supported the "appropriate" warning by US officials Wednesday for Americans living within 50 miles (80 kilometers) of the crippled Japanese plant to evacuate or seek shelter, amid mounting concern of a catastrophic meltdown.
Japan has declared an evacuation zone of 12 miles (20 kilometers).
In the worst-ever nuclear accident, at Chernobyl in 1986, radiation fallout reached most of Europe including England, more than 1,250 miles (2,000 kilometers) away.
© AFP -- Published at Activist Post with license