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'Radiation from Japanese N-plant won't reach US'

March 16, 2011 08:52 IST

United States President Barack Obama has said that he was not worried about radiation from the quake hit Japanese nuclear power plant reaching Hawaii.

Asked about whether he is worried about the radiation from Japan reaching the US shores, Obama said, "No. I've been assured that it...any nuclear release dissipates by the time it gets even to Hawaii, much less to the mainland of the US."

"I do think it's important for us to think through constantly how we can improve nuclear technologies to deal with additional safety concerns," Obama said when asked about the safety of nuclear plants in the US during an interview with a Pittsburgh television station.

"We constantly monitor I asked this question of our nuclear regulatory commission. We constantly monitor seismic activity," he said.

Obama said all energy sources have downsides and none are foolproof, adding that the US learned that last summer during the massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

Earlier in the day, Energy Secretary Steven Chu announced that the Department of Energy has offered Japan an aerial measuring system capability, including detectors and analytical equipment used to provide assessments of contamination on the ground. In total, the DOE team includes 34 people.

"We have offered our Japanese friends disaster response experts, search and rescue teams, technical advisors with nuclear expertise, and logistical support from the United States military," White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said.

The president is being kept up to date and is constantly being briefed by his national security staff. The national security staff in the White House is also coordinating a large inter-agency response with experts meeting around the clock to monitor the latest information coming out of Japan, he said.

The US Nuclear Regulatory Commission said it has sent nine additional experts to Tokyo to provide assistance as requested by the Japanese government.

Acting as part of a US agency for International Development assistance team, the NRC has dispatched the experts to Tokyo to provide assistance as requested by the Japanese government, it said.

The first members of the team left the US Monday evening and were due to arrive in Tokyo Wednesday afternoon. The team includes additional reactor experts, international affairs professional staffers, and a senior manager from one of the NRC's four operating regions.

Meanwhile, Obama has asked the NRC to evaluate the situation of nuclear power plants in the US and incorporate the lessons learnt from the Japanese nuclear tragedy in its review, according to the White House.

"He (Obama) has asked the NRC to evaluate the situation, the lessons learned from Japan as that information comes available and to incorporate it in its overall reviews of the safety and security of the reactors here in the United States," White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said.

Noting that this is what the NRC does in any case, Carney said Obama has added his voice, which is a singular and substantial voice, to the call for the need to do that today.

"We have very specific and detailed plans in how response would be coordinated and which agencies would take the lead. Depending on what kind of incident we're discussing here, there is not a one-size-fits-all response, we believe, and that's why we take the approach we take," he said.

The NRC is responsible for all the facilities and for the licensing and permitting the evaluations of their safety standards and the upgrade of their safety procedures if they so deem it necessary.

If the NRC decided that a facility was no longer safe, either because of something that had happened in that facility or because of new information, it has the authority to take the steps necessary to suspend activity at that facility or to shut it down.

Carney said the NRC has made the judgment that US facilities are safe and secure. "They are constantly evaluating their standards, their procedures, taking in new information, and making adjustments accordingly. That would apply to old reactors as well as newer ones," he said.

Post tsunami in Indonesia, NRC had performed a review of safety measures and made evaluations based on that in terms of the safety and security of US nuclear facilities.

"So it simply stands to reason that you make models for various scenarios and every time there is new information that comes in from an actual event you take that data and you analyze it and you examine whether or not it affects the models you have for safety and security of your facilities," he said.

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