U.S. Nuclear Experts Help Japan
Earthquake disaster could help improve nuke safety everywhere
Some 7,000 miles from a near nuclear disaster in Japan, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission is monitoring the situation 24 hours a day from its headquarters in Rockville, Maryland. The agency, which oversees nuclear plants in the United States, is sharing its expertise with Japan.
A 9.0 magnitude earthquake and subsequent tsunami on March 11 damaged three Japanese nuclear power plants. One plant in particular is in danger of a meltdown. Multiple nuclear reactors at the plant are overheating and leaking radiation into the atmosphere. The area 19 miles around the power plant has been evacuated. The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) told U.S. citizens in the area to evacuate a 50-mile radius of the plant.
The NRC quickly sent experts to Japan and opened a 24-hour operations center in twin high-rise buildings in Tokyo.
"We have experts in a wide range of technical areas and are well-suited to support the Japanese in bringing this crisis to closure," said Robert M. Taylor, technical assistant at the NRC office of public affairs. The agency regulates the 104 nuclear reactors in the U.S. and the safe use of all commercial nuclear materials.
So far, 11 NRC experts are on the ground in Japan to analyze radiation leaks and offer advice. Taylor said that the Japanese are taking "reasonable actions to address the situation."
"The events unfolding in Japan are the result of a catastrophic series of natural disasters," Taylor told the Scholastic News Kids Press Corps. "These include the fifth-largest earthquake in recorded history and the resulting devastating tsunami."
The NRC is doing more than helping the Japanese. Experts will use the experience to learn how to better protect power plants in the U.S. and elsewhere in the world.
"The NRC will continue to carry out its mission to protect public health and safety," Taylor said. "After this crisis has been safely resolved, the NRC will assess all the available information and evaluate whether enhancements to U.S. nuclear power plants are warranted."
U.S. Senators Barbara Boxer and Diane Feinstein of California have called for safety inspections of two nuclear plants in Southern California. The Diablo Canyon Power Plant near San Luis Obispo and the San Onofre plant near San Diego are both on a major fault line. State lawmakers in the Golden State called on utilities to begin detailed seismic maps as part of a re-licensing process.
For more about the Diablo Canyon plant, check out an interview with the plant's spokesperson by Kid Reporter Mimi Evans.
EARTHQUAKE IN JAPAN
A magnitude 9.0 earthquake struck northeast Japan on Friday, March 11, causing a destructive tsunami that reached the west coast of the United States. Scholastic News Kid Reporters are collecting information about the quake and its aftermath and talking to people who have family and friends in Japan and looking into how kids can help with relief efforts. Find their stories in the Earthquake in Japan Special Report.
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