(WASHINGTON) -- Two Senate Democrats called Thursday for a sweeping review of safety vulnerabilities at U.S. nuclear plants in light of the ongoing disaster in Japan. Senators Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., Chair of the Environment and Public Works Committee, and Tom Carper, D-Del., Chair of the Clean Air and Nuclear Safety Subcommittee, wrote a letter Thursday urging the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to “extensively investigate the risks posed to nuclear facilities in the United States as soon as possible.”
On Capitol Hill Wednesday, Boxer had harsh words for NRC Chairman Gregory Jaczko. She scolded him for not doing enough to evaluate the safety of U.S. reactors in light of the crisis in Japan and called on him to investigate nuclear plants in California.
“We want to have those plants inspected. We want reassurances. We want answers,” she said at a hearing of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. “I can’t mince words. I’ve got two plants with millions of people within 50 miles that were designed in the ‘70s, new information about earthquakes, and I need you to take a look at it,” she concluded.
Boxer’s comments came just hours after the U.S. recommended that all American citizens in Japan evacuate a 50 mile radius surrounding the Fukushima nuclear reactors.
The Senator was particularly concerned about reactors in the U.S. that are located near fault lines and the NRC’s ability to predict the worst possible disaster.
“This is a very large country, I just don’t get why we have so many plants on earthquake faults,” she said. “We go in and we decide what the earthquake risk is and Mother Nature says, ‘excuse me, you didn’t ask my opinion.’ And that’s a fact. Now I’m very concerned because this Japanese plant – you don’t want to comment on it -- was built to withstand, I believe, a 7.5 earthquake and a 9.0 happened.”
“Is this not a warning that we should be humbled?” she asked. “You’re doing nothing new, nothing, not one thing…I don’t hear anything proactive and I worry about that.”
Jaczko reiterated that the NRC is monitoring the situation in Japan closely and will apply lessons learned from the crisis to the U.S. “We are going to be looking very seriously at what happened in Japan, and if we get any information that says there’s a safety issue, we’ll take action,” he said. “We are not doing nothing.”
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