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The Obama administration‘s most vocal advocate for nuclear power says the nuclear disaster unfolding in Japan will eventually help the United States strengthen safety at its 104 reactors.

Energy Secretary Steven Chu told a House panel Tuesday that Americans should have full confidence that U.S. nuclear power plants are operating safely and responsibly. But Chu also said that the administration is committed to learning from the Japanese incident.

Chu said the Energy Department has assembled a team of 34 people and sent 7,200 pounds of equipment to Japan to help monitor and assess the situation at a Japanese nuclear plant damaged by the earthquake and tsunami.

Chu said he was up early Tuesday morning evaluating atmospheric models produced by his department’s national laboratories that predict where radiation could migrate.

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