Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Trace of radiation from troubled Japanese nuclear plant detected at Crystal River

After detecting higher-than-normal levels of radiation in their measurements, Florida power companies are attributing the increases to a damaged nuclear plant in Japan.

The radiation levels don't create an immediate health threat and are well below the normal radiation exposure people experience every day, representatives from the companies and government agencies said Monday.

Progress Energy detected very low levels of iodine 131, a by-product of the nuclear fission process, in the air at its nuclear plant in Crystal River. Florida Power & Light had similar findings at nuclear plants in Fort Pierce and Miami-Dade County.

However, readings at the Environmental Protection Agency's five Florida monitoring stations — Tampa, Jacksonville, Tallahassee, Orlando and Miami — have remained normal.

Florida is about 7,000 miles from the Japanese plant.

Nuclear Regulatory Commission inspectors are based at Crystal River, but an agency spokesman said they took no action.

"We don't see any reason at this point to have any concern about the levels that have been reported," said Roger Hannah of the NRC.

The Crystal River plant has been offline since September 2009 when it was shut for refueling and maintenance. Its reopening was delayed by the discovery of cracks in the reactor building.

Japan's Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant has been making headlines ever since the March 11 earthquake and resulting tsunami damaged the facility, causing radiation to leak.

There is no way to know for sure if the additional radioactive material was produced at the Japanese plant. But increased levels of radioactive material have been detected at several sites in the United States, and all attributed to the crisis in Japan.

Radiation was found in samples of rainwater from Boston and at power plants in Pennsylvania. Progress Energy found increased levels of iodine 131 at a second plant in South Carolina.

The EPA's monitoring systems detected increased radiation in California, Alaska, Alabama, Hawaii, Idaho and Nevada.

The elevated radiation levels are expected to be only a short-term issue, according to the EPA.

"None of the levels we're seeing are of public health concern at this time," said Davina Marraccini, a spokeswoman.

The nation's nuclear power companies continuously monitor radiation levels at each plant, studying the air, soil, drinking water, precipitation and milk. When power plants detect radiation at certain levels, they are required to file reports with state and federal agencies. That threshold is well below the level considered harmful to humans.

Though the radiation levels detected at the Crystal River plant did not meet thresholds requiring formal action, Progress Energy voluntarily reported its findings on Friday to the Florida Department of Health's Bureau of Radiation Control.

Because the power companies have sensitive equipment that detects extremely low levels of radiation, they can track the effects of the Japanese incident, said Ralph Andersen, chief health physicist for the Nuclear Energy Institute, which represents nuclear power companies.

But those levels are tens of thousands of times less than the natural radioactivity people are exposed to from the air they breathe, water they drink and even the sun and stars in the sky.

"These are fantastically small levels of radiation," he said.

Tia Mitchell can be reached at or (813) 226-3405.

.On the web

More information

The Environmental Protection Agency has launched a special online report giving up-to-date information and maps showing data from various radiation monitoring sites, including Tampa. Visit

Trace of radiation from troubled Japanese nuclear plant detected at Crystal River 03/28/11 [Last modified: Monday, March 28, 2011 10:53pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Four Brandon middle school students face child porn charges related to sex video


    BRANDON — Four Burns Middle School students, ages 12 to 14, have been arrested on child pornography charges after one secretly recorded a girl in a sex act and the others posted it online, authorities said Friday.

  2. Editorial: City grant reforms welcome


    The St. Petersburg City Council made sensible changes to how tax-funded grants will be awarded in the city's high-poverty neighborhoods, a needed improvement after last year's process drew charges of unfairness and political favoritism.

  3. Editorial: Fun display of civic pride


    The Vinik family's sponsorship of a free Lego exhibit in Tampa this summer is welcome news for two particular reasons.

  4. Editorial: Lawmakers ignore insurance mess


    Florida's badly broken system for filing and settling insurance claims, which is wreaking havoc in the property insurance market, is creeping into auto policies with Tampa Bay at ground zero. Assignment of benefits, which can lead to costly court battles, is driving up rates for thousands of homeowners across Florida, …

    Assignment of benefits, which can lead to costly court battles, is driving up rates for thousands of homeowners across Florida, and drivers are starting to feel the pinch too.
  5. Amy Foster is running for reelection to St. Pete City Council


    Four weeks remain before the qualifying period ends for St. Petersburg’s mayoral and City Council races, but one question has been formally answered.

    Amy Foster is running for reelection.

    Amy Foster is officially running for reelection