WASHINGTON, March 17, 2011 — The United States is using all available resources to assist a stricken Japan reeling from the effects of a massive earthquake, a follow-on tsunami and a battered nuclear power infrastructure, President Barack Obama told reporters today at the White House.
“We are working aggressively to support our Japanese ally at this time of extraordinary challenge,” Obama said. “Search and rescue teams are on the ground in Japan to help the recovery effort … The U.S. military, which has helped to ensure the security of Japan for decades, is working around the clock.”
Already, “we’ve flown hundreds of missions to support the recovery efforts, and distributed thousands of pounds of food and water to the Japanese people,” he said. “We’ve also deployed some of our leading experts to help contain the damage at Japan’s nuclear reactors. We’re sharing with them expertise, equipment, and technology so that the courageous responders on the scene have the benefit of American teamwork and support.”
Some of Japan’s nuclear facilities have been in a state of emergency since a massive March 11 earthquake, followed by a tsunami, devastated parts of the country’s main island of Honshu.
Last night, Obama said, he authorized the movement of Americans located within 50 miles of Japan’s nuclear facility at Fukushima Daiichi.
“Even as Japanese responders continue to do heroic work, we know that the damage to the nuclear reactors…poses a substantial risk to people who are nearby,” the president said. “This decision was based upon a careful scientific evaluation and the guidelines we would use to keep our citizens safe here in the United States, or anywhere in the world.”
Beyond the 50-mile radius, Obama said, “the risks do not currently call for an evacuation. But we do 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.”
Damage at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power facility has caused the Defense Department to authorize the voluntary departure of eligible military family members from Japan to the United States. The State Department has established a similar program for family members living in Japan.
Obama urged Americans in Japan to continue to monitor the situation closely, to follow the guidance of the U.S. and Japanese governments, and to contact the U.S. embassy and consulates in Japan for assistance.
The president said he knows that many Americans are worried about possible risks to the United States from radiation in Japan.
“So I want to be very clear: 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,” he said. “This is the judgment of our Nuclear Regulatory Commission and many other experts.”
The Centers for Disease Control and other public health experts do not recommend that people in the United States take precautionary measures beyond staying informed, Obama said, adding that he’s commissioned a review of U.S. nuclear facilities.
Obama, who’d returned from a visit to the Japanese embassy here before speaking to reporters in the White House’s Rose Garden, said the Japanese people “are not alone in this time of great trial and sorrow. Across the Pacific, they will find a hand of support extended from the United States as they get back on their feet.
“We have an alliance that was forged more than a half century ago, and strengthened by shared interests and democratic values,” he added. “Our people share ties of family, ties of culture, and ties of commerce. Our troops have served to protect Japan’s shores, and our citizens have found opportunity and friendship in Japan’s cities and towns.”
In the coming days, Obama said, the United States will continue to do everything possible to ensure the safety of Americans in Japan while assisting the Japanese as they recover from the disaster.
U.S. Department of Defense
Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Public Affairs)