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Tuesday
Mar152011

Senate Energy Chair Bingaman: US Can’t Abandon Nuclear Power

ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- With the disaster in Japan prompting a reexamination of nuclear safety issues, the Senate's top Democrat on energy issues said Tuesday that the U.S. should continue to pursue new nuclear power options.

Senate Energy Chairman Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.) tells ABC News that while it's too early to draw conclusions about safety concerns based on what's happening in Japan, it doesn't change the fact that nuclear power can and will be produced safely in the United States.

"We have depended on nuclear power for many decades to meet much of our electricity needs, and I think we will continue to in the future," said Bingaman. "And I do believe we can produce power safely. We've done that. We've done it for many decades."

"Clearly we need to be sure that the design that we are using in our power plants is the very best and the safest design. And whatever changes we need to make to those designs or to the regulations of those plants we need to make. But I'm not persuaded that nuclear power should be deleted from the list of options that we look at."

Bingaman said the Nuclear Regulatory Commission may wind up making changes on safety requirements and regulations as a result of what we learn from Japan.

Still, a strong majority of senators continue to support nuclear power, Bingaman said.

"Most members I believe recognize the importance that nuclear energy provides in our energy mix. I'm a strong believer that we need to have a diversified set of supplies for our energy needs, and nuclear power is one of them."

Conversely, Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., told ABC News on Tuesday he "never thought it was a good option."

“I think it's not only the unthinkable, what is apparently happening in Japan today, but if you were to ask any expert what is the most expensive way to produce new energy, you know what it is? It's nuclear energy,” Sanders said.

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