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Obama Says U.S. Safe From Japan Radiation, Orders Review of U.S. Nuclear Plants

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President Obama reassured Americans Thursday that radiation from Japan's damaged nuclear plants poses no threat to this country, but added that he has ordered safety reviews of U.S. nuclear facilities.

"We do not expect harmful levels of radiation to reach the United States, whether it's the West Coast, Hawaii, Alaska, or U.S. territories in the Pacific," Obama said in an address from the Rose Garden. "That is the judgment of our Nuclear Regulatory Commission and many other experts."

Americans do not need to take any precautions against radiation contamination "beyond staying informed" of what's happening in Japan.

Update: On Saturday, Japanese officials said higher than normal levels of radiation were found in milk and spinach at farms up to 90 miles away from the damaged nuclear reactors, the New York Times said.

The death toll from the 9.0-magnitude earthquake and resulting tsunamis and aftershocks that struck northern Japan on Friday stood at more than 5,000. Another 10,000 people are still missing.

The disaster damaged four nuclear reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi facility, and officials fear dangerous levels of radiation will be released into the atmosphere. On Thursday, emergency personnel worked desperately to douse the overheated No. 3 reactor, using helicopters, heavy-duty fire trucks and water cannons to cool it with water.

The AP reported that Japanese and U.S. concerns
were increasingly focusing on the pools used to store spent nuclear fuel: Some of the pools are dry or nearly empty and the rods could heat up and spew radiation.


U.S. citizens who were within 50 miles of the Fukushima Daiichi plant were told told to evacuate Wednesday by U.S. government officials.

"Beyond this 50-mile radius, the risks do not currently call for an evacuation. But we do have a responsibility to take prudent and precautionary measures to educate those Americans who may be endangered by exposure to radiation if the situation deteriorates," Obama said. "That's why last night I authorized the voluntary departures of family members and dependents of U.S. officials working in northeastern Japan."

Before his address, the president made an unannounced visit to the Japanese Embassy in Washington on his way home from a Capitol Hill lunch with Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny and congressional leaders.

At the embassy, he signed a condolence book, writing: "My heart goes out to the people of Japan during this enormous tragedy. Please know that America will always stand by one of its greatest allies during this time of need. Because of the strength and wisdom of its people, we know that Japan will recover, and indeed will emerge stronger than ever."

In his address, the president called nuclear power an important part of America's energy future. He said that while our existing nuclear facilities "have undergone exhaustive study" and have been deemed safe under a number of rigorous tests, "when we see a crisis like the one in Japan, we have a responsibility to learn from this event, and to draw from those lessons to ensure the safety and security of our people.

"That's why I've asked the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to do a comprehensive review of the safety of our domestic nuclear plants in light of the natural disaster that unfolded in Japan."

America has sent personnel and tons of relief supplies to its close ally, the president said. The U.S. military is working around the clock there, and has sent some of its top nuclear experts to help contain the damage at Japan's nuclear reactors. "We're sharing with them expertise, equipment, and technology so that the courageous responders on the scene have the benefit of American teamwork and support."

Obama urged the American people to continue their generosity toward the Japanese people, saying anyone who wants to lend a hand should go to usaid.gov for information.

The president ended his address on a note of optimism. "Above all, I am confident that Japan will recover and rebuild because of the strength and spirit of the Japanese people. Over the last few days, they've opened up their homes to one another. They've shared scarce resources of food and water. They've organized shelters, provided free medical care, and looked out for their most vulnerable citizens. One man put it simply: 'It's a Japanese thing. When hard times hit, we have to help each other.'"

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10 Comments

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Michael

Exactly which nuclear plants do Obama's regulators identify as susceptible to tsunami damage in a 1400-year seism? Politics and hysteria abound.

March 21 2011 at 6:08 PM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply
punnster

Before, I wasn't worried about radioactivity, now I am. My trust in Obama credibility and judgment is stretched a bit thin.

March 19 2011 at 7:59 PM Report abuse -17 rate up rate down Reply
tistolaugh

Forgive me if I have lost confidence in Obama's endless words.

March 19 2011 at 1:04 AM Report abuse -17 rate up rate down Reply
no1tazz2007

Right now is a time of faith and prayer faith in our God and our leaders we are a nation of faith and let us not forget how blessed we are when we look at Japan pray for them.

March 18 2011 at 7:14 PM Report abuse +20 rate up rate down Reply
no1tazz2007

also after reading some of the comments about the nuclear mess. What would you do if you were president? I assume he is trying not to panick the people. What good would that do? If we were in danger surely any president acting morally would tell us in a calm fashion what harm we were in and how to proceed. If this is not the case we do need another president.

March 18 2011 at 7:12 PM Report abuse +18 rate up rate down Reply
no1tazz2007

As many other Americans I have not agreed with Obama on many things. However when he quickly stood up to Gadhafi and said stop or else with good old American back-bone my respect and I am sure the respect of many Americans was earned immediately we may not agree with all his decisions but we certainly know now for sure that we don't have a wimp for president. Good for you Obama!

March 18 2011 at 7:06 PM Report abuse +16 rate up rate down Reply
Blodgesmudge

Obama has just reported what the USA Nuclear Commission believes to be correct in respect to dangers from Japan. Don't be suggesting he is pretending to be THE expert, he, as well anyone else has to rely on "Experts" who work in that particular field. One thing that might need to be considered, is are Japanese officials minimizing the dangers in order to cover up lack of adequate response to an already unmanageable situation ?

March 18 2011 at 4:11 PM Report abuse +16 rate up rate down Reply
kev

yes water towers for gravity feed.. But at least 1 mile away

March 18 2011 at 2:13 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
klovepr

Is that why they just announced the radiation has hit California? I'm not sure what he considers "harmful levels," but if it's already made its way here, what happens when things really get bad in Japan? Can we trust anything this man says?

March 18 2011 at 12:16 PM Report abuse -16 rate up rate down Reply
DEAD MEN DWARF

president obama should require the nucular regulatory to enact project water hogg as protective measure requiring all nucular power plants to build in super irrigation towers around each nucular powerplant the failsafe system that dose not exist at the japan site is too little too late of sea water with boruin injection towers at 100 ft or more tall with remote contnrol operation this eliminates air dumping water or fire trucks that are too small for large scale fires ,super pumps for super fires ,not water pistols

March 17 2011 at 10:27 PM Report abuse +23 rate up rate down Reply

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