Debate on U.S. nuclear energy heats up
March 20th, 2011
03:29 PM ET
11 years ago

Debate on U.S. nuclear energy heats up

Washington (CNN) - American officials raised their own questions about the safety of nuclear power Sunday in light of the ongoing nuclear meltdown in Japan.

Democratic Representative Ed Markey of Massachusetts, a long-time critic of nuclear power, called for a moratorium on the construction of nuclear power plants in earthquake-prone regions.

The situation in Japan “is calling into question the viability of nuclear power in the United States,” Markey said on CBS’ “Face the Nation.” “We should just be humble in the face of Mother Nature.”

Going forward, Markey said Congress should make it more difficult to pass loan guarantees for new nuclear plants in the United States.

Energy Secretary Steven Chu said America will rethink construction locations going forward.

"Certainly where we site reactors - and where we site reactors going forward - will be different than where we might have sited them in the past," Chu said on "Fox News Sunday."

There are six reactors at the nuclear plant in Fukushima, Japan, where workers have been struggling to stave off a full meltdown since a 9.0-magnitude earthquake and ensuing tsunami knocked out cooling systems. The United States houses 104 operating nuclear power reactors, according to the United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

Democratic Senator Carl Levin of Michigan said all American nuclear plants ought to be tested “very, very carefully to make sure that they are safe and to make sure that this cannot happen here.”

And Republican Senator John McCain of Arizona said the coordination between different government agencies needs to be evaluated.

However, Levin and McCain said the country should continue using nuclear power, a hot issue in congressional energy debates.

“Europe depends heavily on it and they have found it to be safe,” Levin said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “We use it a lot. We have found it, since Three Mile Island, to be safe.”

“To shut down every nuclear power plant in America because of this tragedy in Japan, or put every ship with a nuclear power plant on it at the pier is overreaction, which is not necessary,” McCain said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

Independent Senator Joe Lieberman of Connecticut stressed the safety of the nuclear plants in the United States.

“Every year, at every one of the 104 nuclear power plants in America, there are drills four times a year as to how to respond to an accident or an attack of some kind. There are evacuation plans, there are communication plans, there are plans for getting potassium iodide pills in. So, there's a lot of preparation,” Lieberman said on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “But frankly, there's some disasters that we'll never be able to fully prepare for.”

Filed under: Congress • Nuclear power
soundoff (6 Responses)
  1. Wire Palladin, S. F.

    Explain to me why McCain is on the Sunday talk shows. Everything he says is a nuclear over reaction to what is in the best interests of Americans. I would like to see our current reactors reevaluated for safety, but the republicans appear to be ready to eliminate funding for for this type of activity and safety regulations that will protect us.

    March 20, 2011 03:38 pm at 3:38 pm |
  2. GonzoinHouston

    11 people were killed when BP's Macanado rig sank. Others were killed in explosions and accidents at drill sites and refineries. It's a good year if less than 2 dozen people are killed in coal mining accidents. Compared to that, America's nuclear program is wonderfully safe, even with 3 Mile Island thrown in. The biggest problem with nuclear energy is that too many people have based their beliefs about it on information from comic books and anti-nuke protest groups.

    March 20, 2011 04:11 pm at 4:11 pm |
  3. Sgt Schultz

    PLEASE shut down the Nuke plants in California – it makes no sense whatsover to have plants with 7.5 million people in 50 mile perimeter with only a couple freeways to escape. Not to mention one plant sits literally right on the coast and in the heart of CA's earthquake fault zones. Not a very bright idea. You don't need to be a genius to figure that out.

    March 20, 2011 04:34 pm at 4:34 pm |
  4. Claudia, Houston, Tx

    I don't know why "Frick and Frat" (McCain and Lieberman) were on the Sunday talk show other than their egos getting in the way of one another. It was like, no you had your turn on the mic, now it's my turn. Can you imagine the 2 of them playing shuffle board in a senior citizens home each holding a cane. CNN must play the "Sunday Funnies" with them.

    March 20, 2011 04:45 pm at 4:45 pm |
  5. T'sah from Virginia

    The conversation will HEAT UP until we have a NUCLEAR EXPLOSION in the minds of those who want to END – and in the minds of those who want to PROLONG nuclear proliferation!! It does not matter as long as the explosion remains in their minds!!!

    March 20, 2011 05:24 pm at 5:24 pm |
  6. Anonymous

    Wire, McCain's overwhelming number of appearances is proof that there is no actual "liberal media", despite the myths pushed by the Greedy Old Parasite (studies have also shown that overall, media guests tend to be 60% or more Greedy Old Parasites, with the rest split between liberals and centrists). Basically. McCain is the de facto spokesman for the corporate elite in America.

    Gonzo: You seem to ignore the losses in other countries, as if US borders somehow magically make nukes safer.

    March 20, 2011 07:49 pm at 7:49 pm |