Here's the bad news: a United Nations forecast says that a so-called “plume” of radiation from Japan's Fukushima nuclear plant will reach Southern California by late Friday after blowing across the Pacific Ocean via the Aleutian Islands. The plume is then expected to continue its eastward journey to Nevada, Arizona and Utah. The predicted course ends there because the UN didn't chart the plume any farther than the Southwestern United States.
The good news: Because the lethal cloud of radioactive material has to travel thousands of miles to reach California, it'll be so diluted that the health consequences are expected to be “minor.”
Okay, so now for the news that kind of undermines the good news.
First of all, the UN report makes no mention whatsoever of the actual levels of radiation that are currently being expelled from the crippled reactors in Japan, nor what those levels would be expected to be once they hit our shores.
Secondly, the report was issued on Tuesday, based on wind conditions and forecasts available on that day, with the caveat that everything is subject to change.
Thirdly, and most important, the UN never actually released its report to the public. Instead, The New York Times somehow got its hands on it.
So to sum up, thanks, United Nations, thank you very much, indeed, for either scaring the shit out of us for no good reason, or for providing a vastly understated advance warning of radioactive peril that, based on its headline alone, has the potential to cause widespread panic. With reports like this, no wonder folks are getting paranoid and stockpiling anti-radiation pills.