News / USA

    US Nuclear Safety in Spotlight After Japanese Crisis

    Gregory B. Jaczko, Chairman of the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission, left and Dr Mike Weightman Chief Inspector and Chairman of Britain Nuclear Safety Directorate, during a press conference on the disaster of Japan's Fukushima plant, at the OECD in Paris,
    Gregory B. Jaczko, Chairman of the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission, left and Dr Mike Weightman Chief Inspector and Chairman of Britain Nuclear Safety Directorate, during a press conference on the disaster of Japan's Fukushima plant, at the OECD in Paris,
    Michael Bowman

    U.S. nuclear officials say exhaustive reviews of safety standards and procedures have been conducted at American reactors since the Japanese nuclear crisis stemming from a March earthquake and tsunami. That's what leaders of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission sought to reassure wary lawmakers Thursday at a senate hearing.

    One hundred and four nuclear power reactors currently operate in the United States, providing roughly 20 percent of the nation’s electricity. It has been more than three decades since the United States suffered a major nuclear scare - the 1979 partial core meltdown at Three Mile Island in Pennsylvania, which resulted in no deaths or injuries.

    But recent events in Japan have refocused attention on nuclear safety and accident preparedness in the United States. Democratic Senator Frank Lautenberg of New Jersey summed up the concerns of many lawmakers:

    “Since Japan’s nuclear disaster began unfolding, Americans have asked, with a good deal of trepidation: could it happen here? Nothing can be taken for granted where nuclear power is concerned," said Lautenberg. "Japan, a world leader in technology, believed the Fukushima plant was strong enough to withstand a worst-case scenario. And now we know it was not.”

    All five commissioners of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission were on hand to answer senators’ questions. Chairman Gregory Jaczko detailed the commission’s actions since the Japanese crisis began.

    “We issued instructions to our inspectors calling for immediate, independent assessments of each plant’s level of preparedness. The instructions covered extensive damage mitigation guidelines, station blackout, flooding, and seismic issues, as well as severe accident management guidelines,” he said.

    Last month, the NRC reported that potential safety issues had been detected at 12 nuclear facilities.

    The chairwoman of the Senate Committee on the Environment, Barbara Boxer, seemed troubled by problems discovered at a nuclear site in her home state of California.

    “NRC’s inspections at the Diablo Canyon power plant [in California] found that state highways and access roads needed to reach diesel fuel and an alternative seawater source for cooling may be inaccessible after an earthquake," said Boxer. "And hoses needed to get cooling water from the reservoir to the plant were blocked by a security fence.”

    The NRC said such issues are being corrected.

    The commissioners acknowledged there are lessons to be learned from the Japanese nuclear crisis. Jaczko highlighted one lesson in particular.

    “Our traditional approach has always been to assume a single incident at a single reactor," he said. "Clearly Fukushima-Daiichi showed us that we have to consider the possibility of multiple units at a single site, perhaps multiple spent fuel pools being affected at the same time.”

    The hearing exposed divided opinions in the Senate on the wisdom and utility of employing nuclear power in the United States. Republican Senator Lamar Alexander of Tennessee is a strong supporter.

    “The subject in America today is jobs. We want jobs (and) we have got to have large amounts of reliable, low-cost electricity," said Alexander. "Seventy percent of our carbon-free, sulfur-free, nitrogen-free, mercury-free electricity comes from nuclear plants.”

    Democratic Senator Jeff Merkeley of Oregon is far less enthusiastic.

    “I have a lot of doubts about nuclear power being able to be competitive, taking into account costs, potential terror threats, natural disasters, and human error," he said. "But I also think it is very important to look at all options as we wrestle with ways to generate non-carbon power.”

    A political battle has raged for years over what to do with America’s spent nuclear fuel. A site in sparsely-populated Nevada was designated as a nuclear repository in the 1980s. Billions of dollars have been spent to develop the Yucca Mountain repository, but under President Barack Obama the project has been mothballed, with no replacement site identified to date.

    You May Like

    Escalation of Media Crackdown in Turkey Heightens Concerns

    Critics see 'a new dark age' as arrests of journalists, closures of media outlets by Erdogan government mount

    Russia Boasts of Troop Buildup on Flank, Draws Flak

    Russian military moves counter to efforts to de-escalate tensions, State Department says

    Video Iraqis Primed to March on Mosul, Foreign Minister Says

    Iraqi FM Ibrahim al-Jaafari tells VOA the campaign will meet optimistic expectations, even though US officials remain cautious

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Immigrant Delegate Marvels at Democratic Processi
    X
    Katherine Gypson
    July 27, 2016 6:21 PM
    It’s been a bitter and divisive election season – but first time Indian-American delegate Dr. Shashi Gupta headed to the Democratic National Convention with a sense of hope. VOA’s Katherine Gypson followed this immigrant with the love of U.S. politics all the way to Philadelphia.
    Video

    Video Immigrant Delegate Marvels at Democratic Process

    It’s been a bitter and divisive election season – but first time Indian-American delegate Dr. Shashi Gupta headed to the Democratic National Convention with a sense of hope. VOA’s Katherine Gypson followed this immigrant with the love of U.S. politics all the way to Philadelphia.
    Video

    Video A Life of Fighting Back: Hillary Clinton Shatters Glass Ceiling

    Hillary Clinton made history Thursday, overcoming personal and political setbacks to become the first woman to win the presidential nomination of a major U.S. political party. If she wins in November, she will go from “first lady” to U.S. Senator from New York, to Secretary of State, to “Madam President.” Polls show Clinton is both beloved and despised. White House Correspondent Cindy Saine takes a look at the life of the woman both supporters and detractors agree is a fighter for the ages.
    Video

    Video Dutch Entrepreneurs Turn Rainwater Into Beer

    June has been recorded as one of the wettest months in more than a century in many parts of Europe. To a group of entrepreneurs in Amsterdam the rain came as a blessing, as they used the extra water to brew beer. Serginho Roosblad has more to the story.
    Video

    Video First Time Delegate’s First Day Frustrations

    With thousands of people filling the streets of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania for the 2016 Democratic National Convention, VOA’s Kane Farabaugh narrowed in on one delegate as she made her first trip to a national party convention. It was a day that was anything but routine for this United States military veteran.
    Video

    Video Commerce Thrives on US-Mexico Border

    At the Democratic Convention in Philadelphia this week, the party’s presumptive presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton, is expected to attack proposals made by her opponent, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. Last Friday, President Barack Obama hosted his Mexican counterpart, President Enrique Peña Nieto, to underscore the good relations between the two countries. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Tucson.
    Video

    Video Film Helps Save Ethiopian Children Thought to be Cursed

    'Omo Child' looks at effort of African man to stop killings of ‘mingi’ children
    Video

    Video London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunities

    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
    Video

    Video Recycling Lifeline for Lebanon’s Last Glassblowers

    In a small Lebanese coastal town, one family is preserving a craft that stretches back millennia. The art of glass blowing was developed by Phoenicians in the region, and the Khalifehs say they are the only ones keeping the skill alive in Lebanon. But despite teaming up with an eco-entrepreneur and receiving an unexpected boost from the country’s recent trash crisis the future remains uncertain. John Owens reports from Sarafand.
    Video

    Video Migrants Continue to Risk Lives Crossing US Border from Mexico

    In his speech Thursday before the Republican National Convention, the party’s presidential candidate, Donald Trump, reiterated his proposal to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border if elected. Polls show a large percentage of Americans support better control of the nation's southwestern border, but as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from the border town of Nogales in the Mexican state of Sonora, the situation faced by people trying to cross the border is already daunting.
    Video

    Video In State of Emergency, Turkey’s Erdogan Focuses on Spiritual Movement

    The state of emergency that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared is giving him even more power to expand a purge that has seen an estimated 60,000 people either arrested or suspended from their jobs. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports from Istanbul.
    Video

    Video Calm the Waters: US Doubles Down Diplomatic Efforts in ASEAN Meetings

    The United States is redoubling diplomatic efforts and looking to upcoming regional meetings to calm the waters after an international tribunal invalidated the legal basis of Beijing's extensive claims in the South China Sea. VOA State Department correspondent Nike Ching has the story.
    Video

    Video Scientists in Poland Race to Save Honeybees

    Honeybees are in danger worldwide. Causes of what's known as colony collapse disorder range from pesticides and loss of habitat to infections. But scientists in Poland say they are on track to finding a cure for one of the diseases. VOA’s George Putic reports.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora