Washington, March 16 : President Barack Obama has said that nuclear power should remain a part of the US energy matrix, while acknowledging the risks highlighted by the escalating emergency at the Fukushima plant in earthquake-stricken Japan.
"Obviously, all energy sources have their downside - I mean we saw that with the Gulf (oil) spill last summer," he said in an interview with KDKA television in Pittsburgh Tuesday.
Though insisting that US nuclear plants are closely monitored by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, he said there is a need "to think through constantly how can we improve nuclear technologies to deal with additional safety concerns that people have".
"Nuclear plants are designed to withstand certain levels of earthquakes, but having said that, nothing's completely failsafe, nothing is completely foolproof," the president told the CBS affiliate.
Expressing concern about the effects on Japan of a release of radiation from the Fukushima facility, Obama said that the potential nuclear disaster in the Asian nation would have no direct effect on the US.
"(T)here are some dangers for radiation release that could affect the immediate vicinity of nuclear plants and potentially could drift over other parts of Japan, but I've been assured that it - any nuclear release - dissipates by the time it gets even to Hawaii, much less the mainland of the United States," he said.
The situation at the Fukushima plant has reached Level 6 on the ascending seven-step international scale for evaluating nuclear accidents, the director of France's ASN nuclear safety authority said Tuesday.
"It is clear that we are at Level 6," Andre-Claude Lacoste said at a press conference in Paris.
The only Level 7 event in the history of nuclear power was the 1986 meltdown at the Chernobyl plant in Ukraine, while the 1979 incident at Pennsylvania's Three Mile Island is classified as a Level 5.(IANS/EFE)