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Hawaii to get 2 more radiation monitors as EPA seeks to ease worries

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SAN FRANCISCO >> Hawaii will get more two more radiation monitors as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency seeks to mollify public concern in the western United States and Pacific territories over exposure from damaged nuclear plants in Japan, federal environmental regulators said.

The EPA is adding two more stations in Hawaii, one in Guam, and one in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands. In Alaska, officials are setting up three new monitors in Dutch Harbor, Nome and Juneau.

Hawaii currently has two radiation monitoring stations, one each on Oahu and the Big Island. State health officials told the Star-Advertiser yesterday that they will put the two new monitors on Oahu’s North Shore and Kauai.

“The agency decided out of an abundance of caution to send these deployable monitors in order to get some monitors on the ground closer to Japan,” said Jonathan Edwards, director of EPA’s radiation protection division. The idea is to get a better geographic spread of monitoring equipment than currently exists, he said.

EPA already monitors radiation throughout the area as part of its RadNet system, which measures levels in air, drinking water, milk and rain.

The additional monitors are being deployed in response to the ongoing nuclear crisis in Japan, where emergency workers are attempting to cool overheated reactors damaged by last week’s magnitude-9.0 earthquake and tsunami.

Officials with the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission said they do not expect harmful radiation levels to reach the U.S. from Japan.

“The agency decided out of an abundance of caution to send these deployable monitors in order to get some monitors on the ground closer to Japan,” said Jonathan Edwards, director of EPA’s radiation protection division.

California already has 12 monitoring stations scattered throughout the state that test the air for radiation levels. EPA also has 40 so-called “deployable” monitors that can be moved around in cases of emergency.

EPA told The Associated Press it is adding two more stations in Hawaii and two in Guam. In Alaska, officials are setting up three new monitors in Dutch Harbor, Nome and Juneau.

Once up and running, the stations will send real time data via satellite to EPA officials, who will make the data available to the public online. The monitors also contain two types of air filters that are collected and mailed to EPA’s data center in Alabama.

The new stations are expected to be operational by the end of the week, Edwards said.

The agency said it does not expect to see any spike in readings on the monitors, which Edwards said measure all forms of radiation that might exist after a nuclear event like the one in Japan.

Hawaii health officials yesterday said they have not detected abnormal levels of radiation, and that no public health risk to the state is expected.

Officials in all western states have said they do not expect to see any harmful levels of radiation reach the mainland, which is about 5,000 miles from Japan.

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