How would U.S. pay for its own nuclear crisis?

A sign warns of radiation on the Hanford nuclear reservation Thursday, April 3, 2008 near Richland, Wash. Each year, the federal government spends roughly $2 billion to work toward cleaning up the nation's most contaminated nuclear site, but now, with a new president and a new Congress with their own ideas about how money should be spent, Hanford is in a period of transition.
AP Photo/Ted S. Warren
A sign warns of radiation on the Hanford nuclear reservation Thursday,April 3, 2008 near Richland, Wash.
AP Photo/Ted S. Warren

As Japan tackles the its biggest crisis since World War II and the world anxiously follows every development at its imperiled nuclear power plant, many in the US are asking the question, could it happen here?

But beyond that, with record annual deficits of over $1.6 trillion and over $14 trillion in debt, many are also asking, if it happened, could the US afford it?

"The U.S. typically has little to no reserves in its annual budget for future natural disasters. Therefore, related costs tend to be handled as supplemental spending bills after the event occurs," said David Walker, the Founder and CEO of Comeback America Initiative and a longtime critic of out of control federal spending and debt.

After Hurricane Katrina struck the gulf coast in 2005, Congress immediately spent $10.5 billion for relief. Overall, the federal government made over $16 billion available to states via community development block grants. The response to the disaster from Katrina could be a fraction of the total costs faced by Japan, especially if the nuclear situation worsens.

"The U.S. needs to begin to put its financial house in order so that we will be better able to handle unexpected events in the future. We should learn from others and not wait for a crisis to occur before we act. Our future depends on it," added Walker.

Special Report: Disaster in Japan

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    Robert Hendin is senior producer for "Face the Nation" and a CBS News senior political producer.