Minute amounts of radioactivity are drifting through the state—all the way from Japan. A trace amount of iodine-131, a radioactive material possibly stemming from Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi power plant accident, has been detected by Dr. Zheng Chang, visiting associate professor of radiochemistry and director of the Applied Radiation Sciences Laboratory (ARSL) at SC State University. The university professor has been monitoring air samples in his part of the state since Japan’s nuclear power plant crisis, which was triggered by a massive earthquake and 30-foot tsunami on March 11.
Three days after the first nuclear power plant explosion in Japan, Chang and his students installed an air sampler on the rooftop on a residential hall on SC State’s campus, the tallest building in Orangeburg. Chang says the amounts he found pose no significant health risk to the Orangeburg community.
The week before last, power plants in the Upstate picked up the same radioactive materials. Scientists from the University of South Carolina concur with Chang’s findings that this radiation level poses no public health threat.
SC State has a nuclear engineering program and a grant from the U.S. Department of Energy to research environmental radiochemistry.