Stories you shouldn’t miss:
1. Fear of a nuclear power plant catastrophe in Japan is spurring a run on iodine pills in Northern California, the Santa Rosa Press Democrat reports. Some distributors of potassium iodide say they’re already sold out as Northern Californians worry that a potential Chernobyl-like disaster in Japan will spew huge amounts of radiation into the air and that it will spread to the West Coast. Potassium iodide can help prevent thyroid cancer caused by radiation exposure. Scientists tell the Bay Citizen, however, that fallout from a nuclear meltdown in Japan is unlikely to cause harm to West Coast residents — unless there’s a huge explosion and the radiation reaches the jet stream. At that point, it could be carried toward the West Coast at about 100 mph in high concentration levels.
2. In Japan, meanwhile, efforts to prevent a full-scale nuclear disaster appear to be unraveling, the New York Times reports. Japanese government officials urged calm but told people living within eighteen miles of the crippled Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station to stay indoors. In addition, most of the 800 workers at the station, who have been struggling to keep its three damaged reactors from melting down since last week’s monster 8.9 earthquake and giant tsunami, were told to go home to avoid deadly radiation exposure. About fifty workers will remain, but if they leave, experts say the reactors will melt down, resulting in a major nuclear disaster. “It’s way past Three Mile Island already,” said Frank von Hippel, a physicist and professor at Princeton. “The biggest risk now is that the core really melts down and you have a steam explosion.”