Chairman Bingaman on Nuclear Crisis in Japan
“The emergency at Japan’s nuclear reactors in Fukushima is still unfolding. Information about these events is still coming in, and it will be some time before we have a complete understanding of the damage to the reactor cores and spent fuel storage at those plants and the resultant releases to the environment. We will need to understand what failures in design could have contributed to the problems in Japan, whether they could have been prevented, and whether similar design flaws exist in reactors here in this country.
“The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, at least in my view, has been fairly assiduous in insisting on adequate safety for our nuclear reactors. They have a pretty good track record in that regard in the last few decades. I think undoubtedly they’ll be taking a fresh look at the safety precautions and provisions that are in place, in light of whatever is learned from the Japanese. I hope that the Commission will quickly reach some conclusions about whether the safety precautions and provisions that it has insisted on are adequate for the future.
“While our Nuclear Regulatory Commission is primarily responsible to a different Senate committee, the Japanese emergency is of great interest to the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee because of its broader effect on our energy policy discussions. I would not be surprised if we decide to have a hearing to review the implications of what happened there for our own nuclear power generation capacity. My own view is that we need to have a diverse set of sources for energy production and nuclear power is currently responsible for 20 percent of our electricity generation. I think nuclear power can be provided in a safe reliable way and it is possible that we will learn some things from what’s happened in Japan that will persuade us to put in place additional precautions.”
# # #