Washington: Several US lawmakers have
expressed concern over the safety and security of nuclear power plants in the country in the aftermath of the damages caused to Japanese atomic plants following last week`s massive
earthquake and tsunami.
"The worsening nuclear crisis in Japan is raising
serious questions in the minds of many Americans about the
safety and preparedness of nuclear power plants in the United
States," Democrats members of the House Committee on Energy
and Commerce wrote a letter to its chairman, Fred Upton,
seeking a Congressional hearing on this issue.
The nuclear industry has downplayed the significance
of the events in Japan, they note.
"Over the weekend, a spokesman for the Nuclear Energy
Institute, the industry`s lobbying organization, said,"Obviously, any time you have an incident at a nuclear plant that involves any kind of damage or an explosion, it`s
not good. But in the scheme of things, is it a disaster? We
don`t think so," according to the letter.
Congressman said the nuclear industry has also
asserted that it is far better prepared to respond to a
nuclear accident than the oil industry was in responding to
the blowout of BP`s Macondo well.
"The vice president of nuclear operations for the
Nuclear Energy Institute stated: "The problem with the BP
event is that they didn`t have a Plan B. We have, I would say,
sufficient defense in depth. We have Plan B, C, D and possibly
E," according to the letter.
Congressmen hoped the nuclear industry’s
self-confidence is warranted, but the US should not accept the
industry’s assurances without conducting its own independent
evaluation of the risks posed by nuclear reactors in the US
and the preparedness of industry and regulators to respond to
This is especially important given that the Nuclear
Regulatory Commission (NRC) is actively considering license
applications for new nuclear power plants, as well as renewal
licenses for older existing reactors, they said.
"In recent years, the NRC has approved over 60
license renewal applications, including several for plants
with the same design as the endangered Japanese facilities.
In fact, the NRC recently voted to renew the
operating license for the Vermont Yankee nuclear plant, which
is of the same design as some of the reactors experiencing
severe problems in Japan," they wrote.