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Nuclear Accident Level Raised; Libyan Government Claims Cease- Fire

Aired March 18, 2011 - 19:00   ET


JOHN KING, HOST: Thanks, Wolf, and good evening, everyone. Tonight we're closely watching to breaking news stories. The Japanese government acknowledges now the crisis at the Fukushima nuclear complex is more serious, much more serious than it had previously acknowledged.

And while there is no cause for alarm now, absolutely no cause for alarm, tiny radioactive particles from Japan are detected today in California. A reminder, this is a global challenge that could drag on for weeks or more. We'll dig deep on the six-reactor emergency in just a moment with the help of this startling new satellite imagery.

Look here at the destruction in this nuclear complex, especially in the buildings where highly radioactive spent fuel is stored and where we now know sadly there are major problems.

But first, the likelihood of military action against Libya and involving U.S. forces is dramatically higher tonight. Earlier today Libya's government responded to a tough new United Nations resolution authorizing military strikes. Instead it would agree to a cease-fire in its struggle against opposition forces.

But within hours there was ample evidence, including I'm told U.S. intelligence images, that the fighting continues. Tonight, the White House says Gadhafi is in violation of that resolution already and the Libyan dictator is left to mull this stern warning from the president of the United States.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: If Gadhafi does not comply with the resolution, the international community will impose consequences and the resolution will be enforced through military action.


KING: Tonight, the United Kingdom and France say they are moving warplanes into the region and Qatar and the United Arab Emirates are promising to join the anti-Gadhafi coalition as well.

President Obama was adamant, no U.S. ground forces would be involved, but U.S. officials say a number of U.S. military and intelligence assets are part of this new effort, including AWACS and refueling planes, intelligence drones and naval ships in the Mediterranean.


OBAMA: We will provide the unique capabilities that we can bring to bear to stop the violence against civilians, including enabling our European allies and Arab partners to effectively enforce a no-fly zone.


KING: Exactly what happens next and when depends in large part on developments on the ground in Libya. CNN's Arwa Damon is in the opposition stronghold of Benghazi in the eastern part of the country, and our Nic Robertson is in the Gadhafi-controlled capital, Tripoli.

Nic, let me start with you. President Obama in his statement was very clear. He said not only must there be a cease-fire, but that Gadhafi must essentially leave, pull his troops out of cities in the east that he has taken in recent days and go back. Is there any indication the regime is willing to give up the ground it has seized over the last week?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I think this is going to be very tough for them to swallow, but the reality is what happens to Libya right now, what happens to Moammar Gadhafi's army, is entirely in his hands.

So we've heard his foreign minister say there's a cease-fire, and on the ground that's not happening. It is in the -- it is in the hands of Moammar Gadhafi right now, what happens to his army if he doesn't back down. It's seems very clear, John.

KING: And Arwa, we just heard Nic say conditions on the ground do not support the statement that there is a cease-fire. What is the take from the opposition to that and to President Obama's statement that these demands, including that Gadhafi pull out of those cities in the east, is non-negotiable?

ARWA DAMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: They say that fighting continues in three cities, Bentan to the west, Misrata, and Ajdabiya. We were outside of Ajdabiya when that cease-fire was announced by the Gadhafi government, and we heard bombs, explosions continue to reverberate across the desert for hours afterwards.

People telling us horrific stories of the fighting inside. People very concerned. They're grateful to President Obama, but they're very worried about the amount of time it is going to take to actually implement this no-fly zone and take the other measures.

One man saying that he was very worried because he feared that Gadhafi would actually strike Benghazi tonight and of course, continue to strike the other areas that we have been seeing him hit in the past.

One man saying that Obama was a lot of talk and not enough action, questioning what the U.S. president was waiting for before they actually pushed for this resolution to be implemented on the ground here, John --

KING: And Nic Robertson, Moammar Gadhafi has a long history of trying to game the system, if you will, giving the international community a little, then pulling back, a little, then pulling back.

The cease-fire announcement was viewed as essentially, OK, let me try this. In this calculation now with this international coalition growing, what should we look for next from the regime?

ROBERTSON: We're going to look for probably speeches by Moammar Gadhafi, strengthening his position and his view and telling his people that they're doing everything right by the international community. And I think we can expect more statements from government ministers saying the same thing.

That their message for the international community is we're abiding by what you're saying, and then when there is strikes against them, if they continue to do what they've been told not to do, that is, continue attacks on targets that include civilians, then he will be able to play that as the international community invading the national sovereignty of Libya and the regime will try to use that to their advantage.

I suspect that's what we're going to see and I think we're going to see Gadhafi push this to the wire and exploit whatever he can on the ground, where he thinks the international community is not ready to strike back.

KING: And Arwa, many, many questions about exactly how this will play out. We do expect strikes against surface-to-air missiles and anti-aircraft artillery.

We do expect if Gadhafi's forces keep trying to move east that this new coalition would target them. What specifically does the opposition want, does it think would be most helpful?

DAMON: It wants those air strikes, John. It wants that no-fly zone. It wants action because at this point they are barely holding on. They've taken this fight as far as they can. We've been seeing them slowly and gradually being beaten back as they face Gadhafi's military might.

As we have heard today, as we have heard in the past, they want to see those foreign jets flying over their land and dropping bombs on Gadhafi's stronghold. Anything less than that is probably not going to be enough to turn the tide in this conflict.

KING: Arwa Damon for us on the ground in Benghazi. Nic Robertson in Tripoli, both on the ground in Libya at a very momentous time. Thank you both.

So just how will this international coalition work and is there a clear mission or different definitions of success among the partners?

Retired General George Joulwan is a former NATO Supreme Allied commander whose distinguished career included overseeing the Bosnian no-fly zone imposed during the Clinton administration.

General, thanks for being here, number one. I want to go to the map and map some of this out, but first a question that I think would be of concern to any military leader right now. Do you see a clearly defined mission?

The president said Gadhafi needs stop shooting at people, get out of the towns he has taken in the past week in the east and stop the violence. That's how the president explained it today.

The French are saying the goal here is to stifle Gadhafi so the opposition can then march from Benghazi all that way to Tripoli and topple the regime. So before anything has happened, you seem to have a difference of opinion.

GENERAL GEORGE JOULWAN: No, I don't see a clear mission. I think what you have is a bit of confusion. If you read the U.N. resolution, I think it's 1973, there's a lot of things in there that as a military planner I could take and say here are some options you could use.

But there is no clear leadership in all of this. I think the United States is hesitant to lead. We could lead, but not be alone if we're going to do it. As you know, I've worried about the U.S. getting involved in a third fight in the Middle East, but if we're going to do it, let's do it right if we're going to do it.

KING: Let's go over and try to explain some of this. As you look more closely at the map. The first thing I want to pull out is naval vessels. Now, you've heard a lot of talk from the administration that they're very sensitive. They don't want this to be an American operation and they're hoping, they're hoping, and we'll see if this plays out, to not use any U.S. offensive capability, no U.S. warplanes or the like.

But if they need it, among these ships in the Mediterranean you do have cruise missiles, Tomahawk cruise missiles on both the Barry and the Stout. Do you think there's any way given what you know about those surface-to-air missiles and the other anti-aircraft batteries and the Libyan capabilities, can you have a successful operation and not bring these to play?

JOULWAN: I think you have to use, whether it's our ships or some other nation's capability to knock out the air defense that's are around what we call the gulf of Sid Rah.

KING: Let's pull this out in the way and look right where they are up here. If you want to look at the air defenses, this is our circle here. Essentially, if you're going to have a no-fly zone over the entire country, that would be your circle there. I want to show the surface-to-air missiles.

Now, these circles here, the purple circles are the longer range. The tighter circles are shorter range anti-aircraft and surface-to-air missiles. And these outside circles here, these are ballistic missiles that Libya is known to have. Do you think Gadhafi would use them if there are strikes against him, would he lash out and so you'd have to take out the missile launch capability too?

JOULWAN: I think you have to take out. If you're going to go in there and do a no-fly zone, I think you have to take out this sort of capability. Whether how much of this is effective, I know everyone's saying it's old soviet-style equipment --

KING: It can still kill people.

JOULWAN: I mean, we found that out in Bosnia. The Serbs shot down one of our planes. I think you have to respect that capability. And part of the rules of engagement should be if you're going to put all kinds of aircraft over, enforcing a no-fly zone, you have to take out the air defenses.

KING: When you hear the president of the United States saying -- I want to close this down and just bring up some of the Libyan military facilities here. We've shown you this photo before. That's just pocking a runway. You know how that works.

When you sigh this here, the air strips here, knowing where his forces have moved to the east, you hear the United States saying we'll be a practical. We'll use AWACKS planes. We'll use our refueling planes.

We'll do air traffic control. We'll fly some intelligence drones over here, but let the Brits, let the French, let the Qataris, let the Emirates, let them do the hard work. Can you foresee that happening?

JOULWAN: I can foresee it happening, but would it be the best option to have here? I think the command and control of an operation like this is crucial. And I would want to hear who is going to command and control this before I give you an assessment of whether it's going to be successful or not.

This is a large undertaking. Multiple nations involved. NATO has a command -- combined air operation center, multinational, in the Verona area in Italy.

KING: We can show you that. We can bring that down for you.


KING: You can assess where all that is. This is what you used during Bosnia.

JOULWAN: And that's capable of providing the -- it's multinational, just not U.S. those are sorts of -- the clarity here about if we're going to do it let's do it right. I'm not saying we should do it, but if we do it, let's make sure we do it right.

KING: But on day one you don't see the clarity just yet. Am I correct in saying that?

JOULWAN: Not yet.

KING: I want to ask you one more question before we go because the opposition says what took so long? You know Moammar Gadhafi and this if you go back in time, this was late February. The opposition had made gains.

They were all the way over here to Misrata. These green cities are opposition gains. This is where we were not that long ago, but then Gadhafi began his march and if you watch the situation change now, obviously Ajdabiya now undisputed, but they think they haven't - the regime has taken all this back.

The president's standard number one is regime pull back from anything seized in the last two weeks. Do you know anything in the history in the character of Moammar Gadhafi that's going to make him pull back without somebody giving him a loud wake-up call?

JOULWAN: No. And I think what has to happen is some clear understanding of what the response is going to be and by whom. We put in an exclusion zone around Sarajevo, and we told the Serbs any fire coming in we will take action.

This is air strikes, not just air cap. I think an option around Benghazi would be some sort of exclusion zone to prevent forces from coming in.

KING: General Joulwan, as always appreciate your explanation. Great help for me.

JOULWAN: Thank you.

KING: Thanks for coming in, sir. Appreciate it. Still to come here, Japan upgrades the seriousness of its nuclear crisis. We'll go live to Anderson Cooper and Sanjay Gupta and we'll show you dramatic new satellite imagery of the nuclear emergency.

But next, more on the military building around Libya and this.


PRESIDENT OBAMA: Innocent civilians were beaten, imprisoned, and in some cases killed. Peaceful protests were forcefully put down.


KING: That's the president's rationale for tough action in Libya, but what about the bloody crackdown in Yemen and Bahrain?


KING: Tonight, the Gadhafi regime says it has no intention of attacking the opposition stronghold of Benghazi and it says media organizations are lying when they report the regime continues its attacks today after promising a cease-fire.

The Obama administration doesn't think much of those statements and says what comes next will depend on the regime's actions, not its words. And a senior official involved in the military planning told me tonight, quote, "there is a clear ultimatum on the table and not much time for him to make his choice."

High stakes for Gadhafi, anti-stakes for an American president who inherited the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, but now faces for the first time the prospect of starting a war.

Let's talk it over with the man who knows the pressures of the oval office very well, David Gergen, who has advised four U.S. presidents.

We talked a bit about this last week, but now the president is out on record delivering an ultimatum for a commander-in-chief to do that dramatically raises the stakes.

DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Absolutely, John. As someone who favored a no-fly zone, I'm not sure whether to celebrate because they're finally doing something and thank goodness for it or to say where the heck have you been?

I mean, had this been done a week or two ago, you could have stopped, you know, Gadhafi a lot earlier and he wouldn't have all these cities we're now asking him to vacate. It's going to make this murky.

I do think the president has definitely raised the stakes for himself and the country. I think at a good cause. It appears that Hillary Clinton had an enormous influence in internal circles to get him to do that.

I do also think that General Joulwan, who was just here, is an old friend going back many years, was on the right path by saying it's not clear what the mission is. As I read the president's statement, it's one that says the mission is not about getting Gadhafi out of office, the mission is about protecting civilians.

KING: That's what the president said. The French are saying something different. The Brits you might say sound somewhere in between. So I think on day one there's a communication issue anyway and we'll see how it plays out.

The president I think it's fair to say said a lot about what the mission would not be today. More so maybe than describing what it would be including this about the prospect of ground troops.


PRESIDENT OBAMA: I also want to be clear about what we will not be doing. The United States is not going to deploy ground troops into Libya and we are not going to use force to go beyond a well-defined goal specifically the protection of civilians in Libya.


KING: A couple things here. Again, he defines it somewhat different than the French are on record defining it as. He says protecting the civilians. They say, the French, toppling the regime. But how much of what you just heard there is domestic, Iraq, Afghanistan hangover? The American people do not want another war.

GERGEN: A lot. He was sending a very clear message to the American people. John, I can't remember a time when we had a run-up to the use of force in which American people -- a president hasn't really gone to the people before he committed them. That was sort of a news conference.

So, it was sort of odd in that sense. But he's clearly trying to make that point domestically and I think he's been talked into this. You do not want to invade a Muslim country.

But, you know, the issue here for a lot -- I think he's come to the right conclusion. It was a very puzzling way to get here. And now he's also got the issue, what is your strategy in this part of the world? We just had in Yemen today a government that's our friend crack down --

KING: Let me stop you at this point bays think this is critical. I was listening to the president today and I was wondering as he explained this is, he is painting himself into a bit of a corner and a box he might not be able to get out of? This is his rationale for now. This is his rationale for now after a best a tortured process of putting military force on the table against Gadhafi.


PRESIDENT OBAMA: Innocent civilians were beaten, imprisoned and in some cases killed. Peaceful protests were put down. Hospitals were attacked and patients disappeared. A campaign of intimidation and oppression began.


KING: I could fairly take those words and apply them to what happened in Yemen today. At least 40 protesters killed, 100 hurt. Organizers say there were people protesting peacefully after Friday prayers and the government just opened fire on them in Yemen.

In Bahrain today, security forces demolished the monument in Pearl Square where people have been gathering. There's been some fighting, but it's been largely peaceful, and you have the regime crackdown, and last week we heard, David, they were going into hospitals.

The regime was, and they were taking issues with doctors and nurses. Has the president in making a strong moral case against Gadhafi painted himself into a bit of a corner where opposition forces in Yemen and Bahrain could say what about me?

GERGEN: He's going to have to handle this with enormous dexterity because there's no question that in Yemen and Bahrain we have governments who are our friends and he want them to stay in power. KING: So is it a double standard?

GERGEN: Yes. As a matter of fact, there is. You could say, well, Gadhafi was murdering thousands. There are only 46 that were killed in Yemen, but still, it's a hard one.

But, you know, there's the issue about your values and there's an issue about your national interests. And in Yemen and Bahrain, we're asserting our national interests and in Libya, we're asserting our values.

KING: And he's got a tough sell ahead.

GERGEN: He does.

KING: But first and foremost we should be thinking about what happens next for Libya and ask for safety of everyone involved. David Gergen, we appreciate your insights there.

We'll continue this conversation. Still ahead here, Secretary of State Clinton will represent the United States at urgent weekend meetings to plan the Libya response.

But next, live in Japan, Anderson Cooper, Sanjay Gupta, and a nuclear crisis with no end in sight.


KING: The death toll from Japan's earthquake and tsunami now stands at 6,911, with some 10,000 people still missing. As we've reported, Japan's nuclear agency today acknowledged the crisis at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant is worse than originally believed, raising the crisis level from 4 to 5 on a scale of 7.

The same ranking as the Three Mile Island accident back in 1979. The Japanese prime minister today called the situation at the plant very grave, but urged everyone to keep trying.


NAOTO KAN, JAPANESE PRIME MINISTER (through translation): We don't have any room to be pessimistic or to be discouraged. We cannot do so. We are going to create Japan once again from scratch.


KING: CNN's Anderson Cooper joins us live now in Tokyo. And Anderson, on the one hand I guess we should be thankful the Japanese government seems to understand it's a deeper problem than previously recognized, but many people think, you know what, we already know is worse than that.

ANDERSON COOPER, ANCHOR, AC360: Absolutely. And you know, the other issue that a lot of people have been critical of the Japanese government for and Japanese officials on this is just kind of this lack of transparency. And that statement that you just heard from the prime minister, again, it was full of sort of platitudes about working together and rebuilding. It didn't really have a lot of details and details are crucial right now, and that's what really people are looking for.

There are really three battles going on today. There's one, the effort to restore a power line to reactors number 1 and 2. The problem with that is radiation levels have been high, measured around reactor 2 yesterday. There was also steam escaping likely with radioactive material in it.

So that's been a very sort of tortured process. They thought they were going to be able to do that on Thursday then they said Friday. It is now Saturday morning here and they said they hope to be able to do that today.

But the other thing unknown is they don't even know if the cooling system, the cooling pumps work. They might have been destroyed in the earthquake or corroded because of sea water that they've been pumping in. So even if they restore power, they're not sure that the cooling pumps are actually going to work.

Then there's a battle in number 3 to pour water. That has been continuing. They've been using fire trucks driven by military personnel. They've had seven fire trucks pouring tons of water on these spent fuel rod pool reactor number 3. Not clear the results of that.

And reactor number 4, the spent fuel rod pools, there is a disagreement. U.S. officials two days ago had said they believe there's little to no water in that pool in reactor number 4. Japanese officials say they believe there is water in that pool. But at this point no one really knows, John.

KING: Nuclear emergency and a credibility crisis all in one. Anderson Cooper live in Tokyo. Much more ahead. Anderson and his team have been doing great work there all week. "AC 360" coming up 2- 1/2 hours. You'll want to be with us for that.

Despite fire crews' efforts to spray tons of water on the crippled reactors in the past few days, the Japanese network NHK reports water levels are still very low at the plant's nuclear fuel storage pools.

In addition to the radiation hazard, efforts to stabilize the reactors are taking an emotional toll at workers on the plant. Let's start there with CNN's chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta, also in Tokyo.

And Sanjay, I cannot imagine, and again, we praise these heroes who are trying but I cannot imagine what it would have been like to have been in there, maybe off and on a bit but over the past week trying to fix this.

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: I can't, either, John, and they know better than anybody. This is the type of living, type of work that they do for a living. They know the radiation levels. They know how much exposure they're getting. They know the health effects in the long term.

And they also know that they're really -- you know, they're the only thing that stands between a full-blown nuclear disaster and the rest of the world. That's a -- it's a lot of weight certainly on their shoulders, and they're putting themselves at great risk.

We don't know exactly how much risk, though, John, to be clear, we know that the levels outside the plant at various times have gotten as high as 400 millisieverts per hour. A lot of people don't know what that means, John.

But in an average year you'd probably get 3 to 4 millisieverts. This is 400 an hour. Again, just for a short time. Even yesterday the numbers rose to 20 millisieverts per hour. But obviously, that's outside the plant.

The radiation being exposed inside the plant obviously much, much higher so, you know, I think it's safe to say that there's very little they can do to protect themselves from the most dangerous form of radiation, but this is sort of what they're going through.

KING: And Sanjay, we keep hearing these heartbreaking stories about the human toll of the disaster, and I understand you've done some reporting on this. Hundreds of elderly residents were evacuated from the nuclear zone, but unfortunately didn't survive the trip. What happened?

GUPTA: Yes. I mean, this is the -- this is some of the heartbreak, really, John, of this because the earthquake occurs, the tsunami, obviously, all this anxiety about the radiation levels, but people -- elderly people being evacuated around those plants from hospitals and nursing homes going to these evacuation centers.

We know that a couple of people died literally in transport abysmal conditions. So cold outside a few more died at the evacuation centers. They're very vulnerable right now and a lot of them are taking medications that's were lost as a result of the tsunami or the evacuation.

They haven't gotten a lot of those basic supplies as of yet. So people who were otherwise saved from the tragedies are still dying, John, as a result. That's a very tough thing for everyone to take. It's very demoralizing.

KING: It's demoralizing indeed. Dr. Gupta, thanks for your reporting as well. Sanjay will be with Anderson tonight on "AC 360."

Let's turn to Arnie Gundersen. He's been with us all week, a nuclear safety advocate who consults with the Vermont state government about the Vermont Yankee nuclear plant.

Mr. Gundersen, I want to move on wall and show some images, but as I do the Japanese government says this is not a 4. This is a 5. Do you think it's well beyond that already, correct? ARNIE GUNDERSEN, NUCLEAR SAFETY ADVOCATE: I think it is. And interestingly, Harold Denton who worked with the NRC on Three Mile Island has also said the same thing. He said this is way beyond it already.

KING: Way beyond it already. I want to pull up an image. This is a new satellite image and it is startling. I want to stretch it out. And we've shared this with you, Mr. Gundersen and I want to go through some of this.

First I want to start down here. Before you get to the reactors, and you see -- there are six reactors in all. You see these four right here. All these buildings in varying states of distress, but we'll get there in a second.

First I want to come down here along the dots here. You see severe damage and some little bubbles - they look like generators down here. And these blue structures, what is this and why is it significant that these are all destroyed?

GUNDERSEN: Well, that's where the emergency cooling pumps are that provide water to cool the plant in the event of an accident. They're called service water pumps. And it looks to me like those service water pumps have been destroyed. They provide the cooling for the diesels.

So even though the diesels were destroyed, had the diesels survived, in my opinion I don't think the service water would have provided water to the diesels. It's what we call a single point of vulnerability, and it looks like they were knocked out.

KING: Knocked out, that's sad to hear there. But the devastation is awful.

Let's go through one through four and look at the decimation. This is where -- this is building number one. And you can see the top of the structure heavily damaged on this I'll call it the front side. It's heavily damaged as well. When you look at this and you know the spent fuel rods are just below this, right over here I think is where the pool is, what does that tell you?

GUNDERSEN: You should see a blue spot in there. There should be -- from this angle you should be able to see the nuclear fuel pool. And you can't. That could mean two things, it's full of rubble or it's dry. And I don't know from this picture.

KING: And if it's full of rubble, perhaps safe, if it's dry, serious trouble?

GUNDERSEN: Either way it's not good.

KING: Let's move over to number two. And if you look at these four buildings, number two here looks to be the most intact. If you looked at it, you would think this one's not so bad, especially compared to one and three. But I'm going to shrink it down a little bit because you can see it a little bit. If you look right here in the back there's a puff of steam coming out the back of this, coming out a little hole in the back of the building.

So while structurally it looks more intact, this is the one, Mr. Gundersen, we have been told they have serious questions about containment in the reactor itself.

GUNDERSEN: Yes. That little hole is 25 feet wide. And I can assure you it wasn't there before the earthquake. It's either steam or smoke. I think it's steam escaping. And it would indicate that the core is awfully hot.

KING: And if the core is awfully hot of course, that would be radioactive material coming out of that building.

I want to move over now to three and four . And I really don't know what to say about these except if you look at these structures, especially look at the structure here, we know there's a problem inside. But if you look at three and four, I mean, oh, god is the only term that comes to mind here, especially knowing, again, not only is there a nuclear reactor in there but there are spent fuel rods here and here that are supposed to be kept buried deep in a pool of water, and we do know there have been problems in these buildings. What does that tell you?

GUNDERSEN: Well, I think Anderson Cooper had it right. There's a lot of rubble there. And it isn't clear that once they get the electricity to the pumps that are in those buildings that the pumps will work. And if the pumps work, it's not clear that the pipes that are connected to them will work.

So getting the electricity's critical, but it's not game over at that point. It's a real big question about whether or not they'll be able to get water in.

On unit four this picture is a little hard to see, but there's a definite crack in the side of unit four. And that's where the fuel pool should be. So I think I would agree with the U.S. experts that I don't believe there's water in that pool.

KING: And so I'm pointing that out right now, the crack in the side the building right here. The spent fuel rods, I'm going to shrink this image and show a little bit quickly of what they look like. If I get that image out of the way and bring up the spent fuel rod levels. This is the total amount of spent fuel on this complex. Unit one, unit two, unit three, unit four, which is the one you looked at right here. That's a significant amount of spent fuel. We haven't even gotten to five and six. This is the big problem as we close the week, is it not?

GUNDERSEN: Yes. There's more spent fuel -- there is about five or six cores' worth of spent fuel as well as the three cores that are melting down. So yes, the spent fuel issue is what's preventing people from getting close to those nuclear reactors because it's like a giant x-ray machine ten stories high. And how to solve that problem is probably top priority.

KING: Mr. Gundersen, we thank you for your help all week long. We're going to keep in touch as this plays out. I suspect we'll be in touch for weeks if not months, but we're grateful for your help on this critical week.

Up next here an update on the latest news, including small traces of radiation from these Japanese nuclear reactors detected in California.


KING: Welcome back. If you're just joining us, here's the latest news you need to know right now. In about three hours President Obama leaves on a five-day trip to Brazil, Chile, and El Salvador. This afternoon at the White House he warned Libya's leader Moammar Gadhafi the international community will impose consequences unless there's an immediate cease-fire.

Security forces in Bahrain demolished the Pearl Monument today. It's been the gathering point for anti-government protests.

The Japanese network NHK reports fire crews sprayed water on the crippled reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi plant during the night and will resume spraying Saturday.

Traces of radiation from the Japanese plant, small amounts, though, have been detected in California. Also the Nuclear Regulatory Commission today sent a notice to all U.S. nuclear plants explaining how the quake and tsunami disabled the Japanese reactors' cooling system and asking U.S. plants to review their emergency plans.

On that point let's take a closer look. Where are the reactors in the United States? There are 104 commercial reactors in all, and they are spread across the country. You see them here. Any state in green has nuclear power. Now, you see the reactors. They run from coast to coast, more in the east.

The state that has the most, that is the state of Illinois. Let me pop this out and you'll see it in a little bit more detail here. It has 11 reactors in all at six different facilities, four of them, and you see them here in red. Those four are the exact same design, the FE mark one at issue now in Japan.

So I had a conversation with the Democratic governor of Illinois, Pat Quinn, and I asked him, when he found that out, that he had four of the reactors of the same design, did it make him a little nervous?


GOV. PAT QUINN, (D) ILLINOIS: Well, we're going to do a complete review. I think that's just what we have to do for public safety. We want to work with the company and all the federal nuclear safety officials. We want to look at everything. I think the events that have happened in Japan are an alarm bell to anyone who has nuclear power anywhere in the world.

And Illinois has 11 reactors. Some of them are older. They have a design that's identical to the ones that have had problems in Japan, and so we don't want to leave any stone unturned.

KING: You also have more spent nuclear fuel, more nuclear waste or spent fuel, call it what you will, in your state than any other state because of the volume of nuclear production. And that is the crisis point at the moment, when you look at Japan, reactors number three and number four, they've had significant draining in the water around the spent fuel rods. Again, that has to be of grave concern. Have you gone back and looked, hey, how are we storing this stuff?

QUINN: Well, we have to look at that. I think part of it is the design of these particular reactors have a different way of bringing the water to protect the people, protect against any kind of mishap. So we want to learn.

KING: And in terms of the storage of the spent fuel, what questions have you asked in the event you do have a fault line out there? You're not a seismic risk as great as Japan is, but you do have a fault line out there. After 9/11 everyone wondered why wouldn't the terrorists go after something like this? What questions have you asked about that spent fuel in recent days?

QUINN: Well, we have to take a look at natural disasters that could happen in Illinois, whether they be tornadoes, we have those, flooding occasionally happens on the Mississippi River and other bodies of water. The Madrid fault line you mentioned, John, is in the southern part of our state but it's still something you pay attention to. And then how does that affect the spent fuel rods and how they're stored and what protections we have for the public.

I think it's important after the catastrophe in Japan that we go back to square one with our experts, our safety experts who put safety of the public first. This is not a time for false economy. I really believe we should invest whatever money's necessary to make sure we have everything done right. If something has to be changed, so be it. We have to protect the people and protect our environment.

KING: As you know, there was some talk of building some new reactors in the United States. That hasn't been done in more than three decades. And 20 percent of our fuel comes from nuclear. Obviously, there will be a bit of a review here. Do you think, though, in terms of expanding the role of nuclear in the United States, is this disaster in Japan going to be a pause button or a stop button?

QUINN: I think it should be a stop button. We have a moratorium on the construction of any nuclear power facilities in our state. We have enough. It's time to look at things like renewable power and energy efficiency.


KING: Governor Pat Quinn of Illinois there. When we come back, volatility from the Japanese crisis, volatility because of the potential military conflict and rising oil prices from Libya. What should you do about your bottom line? Suze Orman helps us next.


KING: If there's one certainty when it comes to financial markets, it is this -- they hate uncertainty, which is why global events the past several weeks can have a dramatic impact on your bottom line.

Let's take a look. Here, for example, a look at financial markets in the United States and Japan. This is over the past month, but you see after the quake and tsunami Japanese markets dropping substantially. U.S. markets down a bit at the end of the week p of that tended to bounce up just a little bit. That's the financial markets.

We've also seen an impact on energy prices largely because of uncertainty in the Middle East and North Africa. You see the price of crude oil bouncing around. It is still now $100 a barrel, and with that you pay more at the pump, $3.52 on average now for gasoline in the United States.

Yes, events largely out of your control, but are there steps you can take to make the volatility hurt you next? Well, no one better to ask than personal finance expert Suze Orman whose latest book "The Money Class -- learn to create your new American dream." Thanks for coming in.

SUZE ORMAN, AUTHOR, "THE MONEY CLASS": Thank you, kind sir, for having me.

KING: So when you see all this play out, uncertainty in the energy markets because of the Middle East and perhaps now military confrontation, the horrible events in Japan. Is there something, have you done anything, or should someone at home watching right now, is there something they should do to say this is changing the way the investment market's going to work, changing perhaps the prospects for a double dip recession?

ORMAN: I think when you are a normal human being at home, this is not a market you that plan, this is not something that you enter and just not know what to do. So the best advice is just stay away from it. If you're a trader, if you really know, you'll come in, you'll come out, you'll do all kinds of things.

The truth of the matter is, John, we were at $100 gasoline -- or oil anyway. Gasoline prices were going up before. So oil, this is where we're going to stay with oil. Everybody should get used to it. It's not going back anymore. Everybody says it's going to stay right about $100.

KING: You say get used to it, and yet we are a consumer spending-driven economy in the United States and consumer confidence, therefore is a huge part. We've been seeing in our polling as the price of energy and gasoline goes up, pessimism about the economy also goes up, meaning consumer confidence goes down. Does that in and of itself have the power to drag the economy?

ORMAN: Yes, it has the power to drag the economy down, and I think people are understanding -- and it's not just gasoline and what it's costing you at the pump, the price of food, everything. Even those who want to be irresponsible with money and they're buying jewelry. The price of gold has affected how much you pay for those little trinkets you that happen to buy.

So people are getting another dose of reality, which is, even though everybody wants to make you feel like it's better and it's over. The economic debacle is still here. We have not solved it. Inflation is reentering the picture. And you'd better know what to do with your money.

KING: You say it's still here, we have not solved the debacle. In this you raise a question that I think many American families have raised themselves around the table, and you say it this way - "Is it time, then, to pronounce the American dream dead? In many ways it pains me to say, this but in my opinion the American dream as we knew it is dead."


KING: I know you to be an optimist. That sounds like a pessimistic statement.

ORMAN: It sounds like a realistic statement. Here's what happened. I'm not talking about the American dream in the '30s and the '40s where everything was maybe I'll own a home and I'll do this and I'll pay for it and it will be OK. That American dream turned into an American dream of I'm going to buy a home even if I don't have any money down. I want bigger, bigger, bigger, more, more, more, I'm a single person but I have three cars. I'm going on vacation but I'm going to put it on my credit card and swipe it and pay the minimum payment due.

That American dream turned into the greatest financial nightmare for most Americans by losing their jobs, losing their homes, losing their cars, not knowing what to do, and literally having the middle class stand in payday loan company lines to say can I get an advance on my loan, on my paycheck.

KING: And yet it is our nature as a people to be optimists and think, hey, I can do better myself, but, b, I can lay a foundation for my children, and their children to do better still. What then to restore an American dream that's more realistic?

ORMAN: So, what is the new American dream? This is the dream where you stand in your truth. It's so good that the old American dream really in my opinion has died, and the new one is this -- security, peace of mind, honesty, the ability to sleep at night.

What you do you can afford to do, and if you can't afford to do it, you just don't do it. It may be you're going to rent an apartment for the rest of your life. And if that's so, there is nothing wrong with it. It may be you have to tell your kids, sweethearts, I just can't afford to send you to college. I have to pay for my own retirement, my own home, my own this. There's nothing wrong with that. You have to know what is true for you in your individual situation. It may be that you buy a home, but only if you can afford it, John, only if you can afford it.

KING: I assume you're talking to people younger than I am. I'm not that old yet. But you write that there are opportunities in this volatility. "The next time the market starts to slide and nerves start to justifiably rattle, come back to the truth. When you're young, you have the ability to buy more shares at a lower price, that's an advantage. Look, I'm not asking you to break into a celebratory jig every time the market falls, but don't run the other way in panic, either. Do not bail."

ORMAN: The new American dream is built on you standing in the truth of what you want for the future. And the best things that could happen if you were in your 20s and 30s is for these markets to fall, fall, fall, go down, down, down.

KING: People in their 40s, 50s, and 60s are saying no, no, no.

ORMAN: Except if those people in their 50s and 60s invested in dividend paying stocks from were secure or exchanged traded funds that were literally secure in their dividends, it wouldn't matter if the stocks went down or ETs went down as long as their dividends were secure and they were paying them the five percent or six percent that they need. There is a way for everybody to achieve their American dream in this economy.

KING: You say this was a hard book to write, maybe the hardest you've ever written. Why?

ORMAN: This is my 10th book. So I didn't want to repeat anything that I had written in the prior books. But it is hard for somebody like me to say the American dream as we knew it is dead. How could I present that negative message in a positive way?

And it took me a while to figure out why what recently happened is maybe the best thing that's happened to a lot of us and to spin it in a way that people could really use the information to transform their lives, not make it so they just felt like oh, my god, I might as well give up now.

KING: What's your sense of how people say this and how much did the -- a, the volatility we see before it, whether it's Japan or the Middle East, but also at home, the debate about spending cuts and are we going to deal with entitlements in Washington, confrontations with public employees' unions and state after state around the country? If you're watching every day, whether it's world events or national events, you can still see a lot of uncertainty about where this economy both small scale here at home and globally is going.

ORMAN: Which is why you cannot get caught up in that economy. You have to stay focused in your own personal financial economy. Are you out of credit card debt? Are you saving an eight-month emergency fund? Are you contributing to your 401(k) plan at work? Do you have a Roth IRA? Are you buying a home? How do you get out of the home that you're in?

If you just concentrated on what's happening in your life and your life alone, it doesn't really matter at this moment what's happening out there, because you're dealing with a big upset in real estate and the stock market. But you can get out of it if you just stay focused.

KING: So do you block it all out or do you just absorb it, not let it influence your decisions?

ORMAN: If I was a regular human being that wasn't, you know, a professional at this, truthfully, I would block it all out. I would just stay the course. I would save my money. I would not get involved in certain things, and I would just live a simple life. And it's through simplicity and doing the most the money that you have you will be OK. If you try to catch these things and invest in these things and catch the ups and downs, you will end up losing.

KING: Suze Orman thanks for coming in.

ORMAN: Any time.

KING: Still to come, some dramatic images as we close this workweek before and after Japan.


KING: It has been a week since the earthquake and tsunami, but we are getting dramatic new images. Imagine being in your car, you're following the dash cam video, this gentleman said he saw it coming, but it was too late. He had no choice but to keep going through. Just watch what happens here.

The awesome power of the water wiped -- that's the windshield there, you see it across. The man said he felt he had no choice, he kept going. He says the car was carried away, obviously. He lived to survive and lived to rescue his camera. It's just stunning, just stunning to see that wash out like that, boom. This is a lucky survivor here.

We continue to get more and more images as this plays out. Before we go, I want to show you a few more to help you understand the scope of the devastation. Excuse me for passing through. Just come over here. These are before and after satellite images. These ones here from the town of Nuriaj. That's before, middle class homes. That's before. Stunning. Just simply stunning. And if you come back halfway you get the sense of before and after, and it is devastating and numbing for that one town.

Let's close that down and look again in the Miyagi province. If you look here, look at the beautiful hillsides flowing down and little towns by the water. One town here, you see the homes, here you see the homes and boat docks. Again, that is before the tsunami. It's horrible. It is just horrible. Everything washed away, everything. The dock -- remember the dock down there? We come back again, if you look at the halfway before and after, it is simply stunning. One more before we close tonight, again, this from the same province or state in northern Japan. Cute little coastal town here, all the boats lined up at the dock. That's before, and this is the horrible aftermath that Japan tons deal with one week later.

If you want to go to go to, you can look at the images yourself. As you do so, say for prayer for the people of Japan.

That's all for us. We'll be back Monday continue to follow Japan and the crisis in Libya. "In the Arena," right now.