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Tuesday
Mar292011

Rep. Markey Calls for Moratorium on Nuclear Reactor Licenses

Tom Brakefield/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Rep. Ed Markey, D-Mass., introduced a new bill Tuesday that would overhaul U.S. nuclear safety and impose a moratorium on all new nuclear reactor licenses or license extensions until new safety requirements are in place that reflect the lessons learned from the Fukushima reactor meltdown.

In the wake of the devastating earthquake and tsunami in Japan earlier this month, Markey, the top Democrat on the House Committee on Natural Resources, is also calling for new safeguards such as requiring nuclear power plants to have emergency backup plans and systems that can withstand longer electricity outages and moving spent nuclear fuel to dry cask storage facilities as soon as fuel is sufficiently cooled.

“The Nuclear Power Plant Safety Act of 2011 will help ensure that the U.S. fleet of nuclear reactors is safe,” Markey said.  “We should not wait for an American meltdown to beef up American nuclear safety measures.  We must heed the lessons to be learned from the nuclear meltdown in Japan and ensure nuclear safety here in America.”

The legislation would also require the Department of Energy to factor in the lessons learned from the Fukushima crisis when calculating the risk of default on loan guarantees for new nuclear power plants.

Beyond Markey’s new bill, the Massachusetts Democrat is separately calling on the Obama administration to provide potassium iodide for any children living within a 20-mile radius of any of the 104 nuclear power plants in the United States. He says it needs to be distributed among state and municipalities before a catastrophe because rapid deployment would be too difficult in the event of a full nuclear disaster.

Potassium iodide is particularly effective in preventing children from contracting thyroid cancer following a nuclear meltdown and is currently being distributed to Japanese children and U.S. troops stationed in Japan.

Markey says the cost of protection is about 18 cents per unit, but he was unsure how many children actually live within a 20-mile radius of a nuclear plant, or the total the initiative would cost.

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