U.S. Not Ready to Say if Radiation Level Decreasing Around Nuclear Reactor

The head of U.S. Pacific Command, Adm. George Willard, said he was “cautiously optimistic” about the nuclear crisis in Japan, but the top Energy Department official coordinating the U.S. response is not yet ready to say the radiation level has decreased.

“We are still analyzing those results, so as soon as we have anything that we can announce by way of results from that analysis you can be sure we will be letting you and the American people know,” the Deputy Secretary of Energy, Daniel Poneman, told me this morning.

The United States sent planes to monitor the radiation levels around the four troubled reactors yesterday, and Poneman said they are sticking to the recommended 50 mile evacuation radius for American citizens.

I asked if he was confident we would avoid the worst case scenario – a nuclear meltdown.

“We are focused day-to-day minute-to-minute. It is a simple task really, get the water in there, get the reactors cool, get the spent fuel cool, and we are really not speculating which direction it goes much beyond that,” he said.

The Japanese are trying to install lines in hopes of restarting the cooling system that failed. Poneman said that they did not know when those lines would be up and running.

“We need to get lights to the sites, we need to get instrumentation and controls back up…We are watching it, they are trying all the time. We have been monitoring that continuously over the last few days, I can’t give you an exact day or moment that it is going to come to pass but they are working very hard on it,” he told me.

-- George Stephanopoulos

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