October 1999

Clinton Orders Review of U.S. Nuclear Facilities

Reuters News Service, October 1, 1999
By Randall Mikkelsen

[Posted 02/10/1999]

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Clinton Friday said he had ordered a safety review of U.S. nuclear installations following an accident at a Japanese nuclear fuel plant in which at least 55 people were exposed to radiation, some at potentially lethal levels.

"I thought that we ought to have all of our people learn everything we could about what happened there, analyze our systems here and make sure we've done everything we can to protect ourselves," Clinton told reporters at the White House.

"There was a pretty good level of confidence that we had done that ... but I think that when something like this happens, we realize we live in a world where perfection eludes us and we've got to keep working on this," Clinton said.

White House spokesman Joe Lockhart said Energy Secretary Bill Richardson, the National Security Council and the Pentagon were asked to take part in the review.

Clinton met reporters after a telephone conversation with Japanese Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi about the accident at a Sumitomo Metals uranium processing plant in Tokaimura, in which at least 55 people were exposed to radiation.

"He told me Japanese authorities have been able to bring the situation under control, and he thanked me for the outpouring of support from the United States," Clinton said.

"Over the last day, we've been providing information to Japan on our experiences in dealing with similar incidences in the United States and making available our experts in atmospheric monitoring and any other areas that might be useful," Clinton said.

The president told reporters he had been informed of a similar incident that occurred in the United States about 30 years ago, apparently referring to fatal accident at a Rhode Island commercial nuclear reactor processing facility in 1964. The death of nuclear worker Robert Peabody in that accident remains the only fatality in U.S. history resulting from an accident at a commercial nuclear reactor.

Richardson had been meeting with his counterparts in Russia and discussing ways to coordinate assistance to Japan, Clinton said.

Washington has offered to send medical and scientific experts, but Japan has not yet said whether it needs the help.

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