STATE COLLEGE, Pa. (CBS) – Japanese nuclear officials say radioactive material from the disabled nuclear power plants in Japan is being released directly into the atmosphere (see related story).  What does that mean for Hawaii, the west coast of the US mainland, and the rest of us in the United States?

There’s no reason for panic along our shores, according to experts like AccuWeather’s Dr. Joe Sobel (below right).

drjoesobel Pennsylvania Expert Says Japanese Nuke Mishaps May Have Effect Here

(Accuweather's Dr. Joe Sobel)

“Unless it was a huge nuclear explosion, it’s hard to see how the radiation would get up into the jet stream level,” Sobel told KYW Newsradio on Tuesday.

The jet stream is the zone at 20,000-30,000 feet where the air zooms at 100 miles an hour or faster and can carry whatever is in its path across the globe.

But what if a large amount of radiation is eventually released as a result of the Japan earthquakes?

“It’s the kind of thing whose impact would be felt over years or even decades,” says Sobel.

But the worst-case scenario — the complete meltdown of the reactor cores, and the spewing of a great amount of radioactivity — has not happened, though there are fears it still could.

“It’s something we have to monitor very carefully,” Sobel said on Tuesday afternoon.

Reported by Ian Bush, KYW Newsradio 1060.

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