Entries in Nuclear Power (2)


Secretary Chu: Obama Still Supports Expanding Nuclear Power In The U.S.

ATTA KENARE/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- President Obama continues to support nuclear power and the construction of new reactors in the U.S., despite the ongoing nuclear crisis in Japan, Energy Secretary Steven Chu said Wednesday.

At a House Energy and Commerce Committee hearing, Rep. Joe Barton (R.Tex.), asked Chu where the president stands and whether he still supports a "rebirth" of nuclear power in the United States.

"The president and the administration believe we have to be looking very, very closely at the events in Japan. We have to apply whatever lessons that can be and will be learned from what has happened and what is happening in Japan," Chu explained. "Those lessons would then be applied to first look at our current existing fleet of reactors, to make sure that they can be used safely as one proceeds forward, any lessons learned can be applied."

"It would be premature to say anything other than we will use this opportunity to learn as best we can," he said.

Barton pushed back "I'm not sure what you just said. Does the president support new nuclear power plant construction in the United States?"

Chu went on to explain that the president's budget calls for $36 billion for loan guarantees for new reactors. "The president's budget is what it is," he said. "That position has not been changed."

"So that's a 'yes'?" Barton asked.

"That's a 'yes.'" Chu replied.

Chu made clear that nuclear energy should continue to be part of a "diverse" energy portfolio in the U.S. But if this crisis can occur in Japan, how can Chu be sure it won't happen here in the U.S.?

Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), noted that Japan is using very advanced technology, similar to that being used in the U.S.  "Japan is a highly developed country. It is as technologically sophisticated as us, and there's much concern in the U.S. that a similar accident can occur here. How do you respond to that concern?" he asked.

Chu agreed and said the U.S. will apply lessons learned in Japan here at home. "They are using more advanced designs. A number of reactors in the U.S. with similar designs, and we're going to look at what went wrong in terms of this double-barreled whammy of this huge, huge earthquake and this huge tsunami and look to our reactors again and learn as much as we can so we can, if needed, improve the safety."

The Secretary said his department plans to review whether nuclear reactors in the U.S. could withstand a similar natural disaster. "What we want to do is look at what happens in Japan and say if there are these multiple events…a terrible earthquake and a tsunami, and look to whether we would be vulnerable to a cascade of multiple events and how they might compromise safety," Chu explained. "We first intend to look fully at whether we have considered all possibilities."

Asked about the status of the nuclear crisis in Japan and the implications of a complete meltdown, Chu explained "we think there is a partial meltdown, but as you correctly noted, that doesn't necessarily mean the containment vessel will fail. Three Mile Island had a partial meltdown and it did not fail."

"We hear conflicting reports about exactly what is happening in the several reactors that are now at risk and I would not want to speculate on exactly what will happening. Let's just say that we monitor it very closely and we'll take it as it comes," he said.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


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.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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