ABC News' Sunlen Miller reports:
President Obama came to the Rose Garden this afternoon in an attempt to assure Americans of their safety and the security of the nation’s nuclear plants following fears caused by Japan’s earthquake, tsunami and nuclear crisis.
“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 repeating a second time for emphasis, “That is the judgment of our Nuclear Regulatory Commission and many other experts.”
The president said he knows some are worried but the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and public health experts do not recommend that people in the United States take precautionary measures “beyond staying informed."
Amid safety concerns and fears the president defended the nuclear power plants in the United States saying that the plants have undergone an exhaustive student already and have been “declared safe for any number of extreme contingencies."
The president said though that lessons can be learned from the situation with Japan so he’s 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.”
The president said the crisis in Japan has highlighted how a powerful natural disaster can “cause even more catastrophe through its impact on nuclear reactors,” as there is a “substantial risk” to people who are nearby, which is why the administration called for the evacuation of American citizens who are within 50 miles of the plant.
“This decision was based upon a careful scientific evaluation and the guidelines that we would use to keep our citizens safe here in the United States, or anywhere in the world,” the president said.
Mr. Obama said that beyond that radius there is no recommendation to evacuate but they will “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."
The president last night authorized voluntary departures of family members and dependents of U.S. officials working in northeastern Japan.
“All U.S. citizens in Japan should continue to carefully monitor the situation and follow the guidance of the U.S. and Japanese governments,” he advised.
Mr. Obama spoke on the phone with Prime Minister Kan last night and during the phone call, he said that the “Japanese people are not alone in this time of great trial and sorrow.”
The president spoke to the spirit of the Japanese people emerging in stories of bravery and recovery amid disaster.
“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.’"
The president mentioned the now-famous image of a four-month-old baby who had been rescued after being stranded for days among the debris that should give all hope.
“No one can say for certain just how she survived the water and the wreckage around her. There is a mystery in the course of human events. But in the midst of economic recovery and global upheaval, disasters like this remind us of the common humanity that we share. We see it in the responders who are risking their lives at Fukushima. We show it through the help that has poured into Japan from 70 countries. And we hear it in the cries of a child, miraculously pulled from the rubble.”