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Radiation levels monitored on Guam

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by Lannie Walker

Guam - Radiation is a hot topic on Guam and around the world since the devastating earthquake and tsunami hit Japan this time last week. While assurances have come from the President of the United States that fears of radiation exposure are unwarranted, KUAM takes a closer look at what those on Guam need to know about the situation.

President Barack Obama announced, "I want to be very clear we do not expect harmful levels of radiation to reach the U.S. whether it's the West Coast, Hawaii, Alaska or U.S. territories in the Pacific." The commander in chief made this announcement today from the nation's capitol, but officials locally continue to monitor the situation closely given the territories proximity to Japan.

Guam Environmental Protection Agency administrator Ivan Quinata says the USEPA is on island, noting. "The representative is here to set up monitoring equipment to equipment that will monitor the any radioactive materials." Quinata says today they are selecting an appropriate location to place the devices and that staff at the Guam EPA will be trained on how to use the equipment. "They will essentially monitor and do the test and handle the analysis and then contact EPA headquarters and relay that information to them to be relayed back to the officials here on the island," he said.

Tracking the winds that could potentially bring the radiation here to Guam is Dr. Mark Lander, professor of meteorology at the University of Guam. "Since the accident, when radiation started being a problem about a week ago last Monday or so the air from Japan...it mostly goes from Japan and goes east it will end up somewhere like Canada, Alaska or the U.S. West Coast," he explained.

But Landers says storm fronts moving across Japan could change the direction of the winds possible sending them towards Guam, adding, "There is only one way it can get here this time year it's after one of those storms comes through Japan and the wind shifts the cold air comes and that cold air then is moving a little different. It's moving south and cold air this time of year comes out of Siberia and across the Sea of Japan and goes across Japan and then it can come out in the Pacific and some of that can actually come south and get into our tradewind."

In fact Lander says a cold spell a few days ago did actually push some winds from Japan toward Guam, though they eventually veered west toward the Philippines. But Lander says the window for weather that could cause winds from Japan to flow toward Guam is closing soon. "In about twelve hours, that path will be shut off the high pressure will go across and shift the winds from Japan and they will only go across the North Pacific, so from late Friday all the way until next Wednesday the air will be shut off from getting down here," he projected.

Of course, that doesn't mean winds that come from Japan in the meantime will bring with it radioactive materials. But if they do, Guam will be prepared to detect any possibly dangerous sign of it - Quinata says the monitoring devices set up by the USEPA will be on island for a minimum of the next seven days

"Maybe a little longer," he added, "depending on the conditions on Japan."

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