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Experts: Radiation From Japan Arrives On East Coast, But Is Harmless

SHOREHAM, N.Y. (CBS 2) -- Workers at Japan's crippled nuclear power plant are struggling to pump out radiation contaminated water. Water inside the plant's unit 2 has tested at radiation levels 100,000 times above normal.

Contaminated water was also found in underground tunnels outside the reactors.

Worries over nuclear contamination are also being felt here in the United States. Health experts are monitoring drinking water and taking air samples, reports CBS 2's Jennifer McLogan.

Trace amounts of radioactive iodine 131,  linked to Japan's crippled nuclear power plant, are showing up in rainwater samples as close to New York as Massachusetts and Pennsylvania.

But the levels are so diluted there's been no impact whatsoever on our drinking water, according to state and federal experts.

"This tiny, tiny, tiny amount doesn't really pose any risk. Again, the question is, will things get worse?" said Dr. Timothy Button of Stony Brook University Medical Center's Department of Radiation.

"The real concern is large scale releases of u235 and plutonium. You want to keep those locked up. You certainly don't want those let out into the environment."

Button said that until Japan's nuclear plant is stabilized, radioactive iodine may continue to show up along the East Coast, but that parents should not worry about kids playing in the rain, pets drinking rainwater, or anyone eating vegetables from their gardens.

"Any radiation is no good," said Aquebogue resident Kathy D'Eletto said. "Believe half of what you hear and none of what you see."

Shoreham's nuclear power plant stands out as a white elephant – shuttered before it ever opened. Residents feared a meltdown and inability to evacuate. Now, 22 years later, they look to Japan and wonder.

"To the best of our ability we should find out what's in our general area, as far as radiation or any type of pollution," resident Bill Carter said.

More than 100 air samples are being collected and tested as part of the Environmental Protection Agency's national radiation monitoring system, including some testing in our area.

Monday marked the 32nd anniversary of the Three Mile Island nuclear disaster. An equipment failure and operator errors led to a partial core meltdown at the Pennsylvania plant's unit 2 reactor at around 4 a.m. on March 28, 1979. When the crisis ended five days later, relatively small amounts of radiation had escaped from the plant and there was no immediate word of any injuries.

Still, the accident is considered the worst nuclear disaster in U.S. history.

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