Napolitano: Radiation From Japan’s Nuclear Reactors Not a Threat to US

Mar 15, 2011 5:36pm

ABC News’ Amy Bingham and Clayton Sandell report:

With Japan’s nuclear radiation situation worsening, officials in the United States are taking a sharper look at the safety, and faults, of America’s nuclear facilities. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said the nuclear failures in Japan will “undoubtedly” expedite disaster planning at US nuclear plants.

“We constantly think about, prepare, exercise, work with our states, our localities, our utilities and the private sector on thinking about what would occur and exercise to the point of failure,” Napolitano told ABC News Tuesday after a conference in Denver.

Napolitano sought to quiet fears of radiation drifting from Japan to California shores.

“The level of radiation coming out of Japan does not put the United States at risk,” she said.

Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan urged people living 12 to 19 miles around the plant to stay indoors Tuesday after fears that a containment vessel at Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant was leaking radiation. Concerns that the radiation would spread across the Pacific to the United States sparked a mad dash in California for potassium iodide, which protects the thyroid from radiation poisoning.

There are 15 American nuclear power plants that are the same or similar design as the site in Japan where explosions near three reactors have the country on high alert for nuclear radiation. The US plants are located along the New Madrid fault line which runs through eight states – Illinois, Indiana, Missouri, Arkansas, Kentucky, Tennessee and Mississippi - and could affect more than 15 million people.

“As we look at something like the upcoming New Madrid fault exercise, we will be stressing our systems and looking to what they can withstand and where we need to continue to improve,” Napolitano said.

“Just as we have learned as a nation from Katrina, on response when there’s a major incident, just as we have learned from the BP oil spill this last year, I’m sure in the, sure in the aftermath when all is said and done we’ll learn something from the tragedy occurring in Japan,” Napolitano said. 

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