The head of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission expressed confidence on Monday that there’s little chance of radioactivity from Japan’s badly damaged nuclear power plants reaching the United States.
"Based on the type of reactor design and the nature of the accident, we see a very low likelihood—really, a very low probability—that there's any possibility of harmful radiation levels in the United States or in Hawaii or any other U.S. territories," said Gregory Jaczko, the chairman of the NRC.
Jaczko also told reporters that his office has dispatched two NRC technical experts to Tokyo to huddle with U.S. embassy officials and assist Japanese officials dealing with the fallout of the nuclear plant damage caused by last week's earthquake and tsunami.
In the aftermath of the catastrophe in Japan, Rep. Edward Markey, D-Mass., has called on the Obama administration to impose a moratorium on building new nuclear power plants in earthquake-prone areas of the U.S.
"We are always focused on the safety and security of nuclear power plants in this country—that will always be something we do," Jaczko said. "Whenever there’s any new information, we always take that information into consideration and make changes if necessary. But right now, we continue to believe that nuclear power plants in this country operate safely and securely."
U.S. nuclear plants are "designed to withstand significant phenomena," such as earthquakes and tsunamis, but Jaczko could not say definitively that U.S. plants could withstand the kind of massive earthquake that hit Japan.
White House press secretary Jay Carney said nuclear power remains a part of President Obama's overall energy plan. Nuclear power amounts for 20 percent of U.S. electricity.