Japan's Devastation Worst since World War II

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Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan said his country is now facing its worst crisis since World War II because of last week's 8.9 magnitude earthquake, massive tsunami, and resulting nuclear emergency.

Approximately 1,000 bodies were found strewn along the battered coast of Miyagi prefecture, bringing the confirmed number of casualties to 2,800. Police suspect more than 10,000 people may have died in Friday's disaster.

Meanwhile, the threat of a nuclear meltdown at a Japanese reactor plant has added to the country's devastation. Officials said the fuel rods in three of the most troubled nuclear reactors appeared to be melting, Monday.

Of the three reactors, Japanese officials are most concerned about Unit 2. Its water levels dropped completely Monday, exposing the uranium fuel rods twice.

"Think of a car thats spinning out of control. You hit the brakes. The brakes don't work. The backup systems don't work. The radiator then begins to blow up," explained physicist Michio Kaku.

Japanese workers pumped sea water into the reactors in a last ditch effort to keep them cool. This will render the reactors unusable after the crisis passes, but U.S. experts say it's the best strategy at this point.

Nearby, a hydrogen explosion rocked Unit 3, but was not as dire as initially thought. Officials said the blast released pressure built up inside and didn't harm the reactor's critical outer shell. A separate reactor suffered an explosion on Saturday.

"We are at a reactor tipping point. Either over the next 24 to 48 hours they're going to get control at these reactors or you'll get meltdown at one or more reactors -- a completely unprecedented situation," said nuclear policy expert Joe Cirincione.

One of the men who helped design the reactors said he thought adequate precautions were taken to prevent a meltdown, but the magnitude of the earthquake and the tsunami were beyond his expectations.

Saturday, 185,000 people near the reactors were evacuated. And although Japanese officials said they haven't detected dangerous levels of radiation, anyone left within a 12 mile radius has been ordered to stay indoors.

The USS Ronald Reagan shifted positions after a helicopter crew delivering supplies to victims was exposed to low levels of radiation. The crew was declared contamination free after scrubbing with soap and water.

Some experts are calling the situation in Japan the nuclear industry's worst nightmare.

There are 104 existing nuclear reactors in United States. But energy officials say they're confident America's reactors are safe and built to withstand devastating events like a tornado, tsunami, or earthquake.

However, officials stopped short of saying whether U.S. plants could withstand a quake as strong as the one that hit Japan.

Nuclear officials speaking at the White House Monday said they do not see any scenario in which Americans will be affected by any leaks in Japan.

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CBN News
Jennifer Wishon

Jennifer Wishon

CBN News White House Correspondent

Jennifer Wishon is the White House correspondent for CBN News based in the network’s Washington, D.C. Bureau.  Before taking over the White House beat, Jennifer covered Capitol Hill and other national news, from the economy to the 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Follow Jennifer on Twitter @JenniferWishon and "like" her at Facebook.com/JennWishon.