Berkeley residents have a telescope trained on the struggle to tame Japanese nuclear reactors damaged by the massive earthquake and tsunami of March 11th. To discover if the radioactive emissions are reaching California, U.C. Berkeley graduate students worked through Spring Break to establish the Berkeley Radiological Air and Water Monitoring Team. They are publishing their data, to the Internet as quickly as they can collect and analyze samples.
5,000 miles from Berkeley, Megacorporation Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) is locked in an epic battle with six nuclear reactors at the Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant on the east coast of Japan. Hydrogen explosions have torn the tops off three of the reactor buildings and in two there is fear that the core vessels are leaking extremely radioactive materials directly into the atmosphere and into the Pacific Ocean. People within 20 miles of the reactors have been evacuated. Food from Fukushima and neighboring prefectures has been declared too radioactive for human consumption. Water treatment plants around Japan have been told to temporarily avoid collecting rainwater.
U.S. authorities have assured American citizens that, in the unlikely event that any of the radioactive materials reach our shores, the quantities will be insignificant. Fortunately, Berkeley is in a position to actually measure how much of the Fukushima miasma is making it across the Pacific Ocean, rather than relying on the accuracy of such assurances. Some of the world's top scientists in the detection of radioactivity work at the Department of Nuclear Engineering at Cal. Professors Kai Vetter and Daniel H. Chivers are coordinating and reviewing the work of the students. The website they have established has data, methods and a discussion forum.
Because megacorporation Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) is being very secretive about the situation, and about its plan to stabilize the nuclear plant, it is quite likely that Berkeley residents know more about the situation in Fukushima than do the people who once lived there.