Secretary Chu says Americans 'in no danger' from Japanese nuclear reactors
The nuclear crisis in Japan grew more troubling Sunday as efforts to control the Fukushimi Daiichi nuclear power facility continued to hit unexpected roadblocks. But Energy Secretary Steven Chu says Americans "are in no danger" from radiation.
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Obama’s directive is long overdue, according to the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS), an organization based in Cambridge, Mass. A UCS report says the NRC has a history of lax oversight of security and safety problems at the nation’s nuclear power facilities.Skip to next paragraph
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According to the report, there were 14 instances in 2010 at US plants involving problems related to broken infrastructure, malfunctioning equipment, and untrained workers. The report characterized the problems as “near misses” and said they required special visits by federal inspectors.
The organization says the NRC needs to go beyond requiring plant owners to fix violations. In addition, according to the UCS, the NRC should require an investigation into why the violation occurred and what measures were put in place to ensure it would not happen in the future. The NRC audits only 5 percent of activities at plants each year, according to the UCS.
David Lochbaum, director of the UCS’s Nuclear Safety Program told reporters Saturday than Japan has “much stricter regulations” than the US and that NRC’s claim that this country’s infrastructure remains safe “can’t be backed up by the facts.”
The three plants the organization lists as “ineffective” are Peach Bottom in Delta, Pa.; the Indian Point Energy Center in Buchanan, NY; and Vermont Yankee in Vernon, Vt. The first is owned by owned by Exelon and the Public Service Enterprise Group while Entergy owns the last two.
In a letter to the NRC last week, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said existing regulations do not address earthquake safety at Indian Point. The plant’s license is up for review in 2013. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has suggested that it be permanently closed.
At a news conference Friday, Mr. Schneiderman said the NRC “refuses to fully and openly assess these specific risks to Indian Point as part of its relicensing process…. Before any conversation about relicensing is concluded, the [NRC] must answer basic health and safety questions.”
Secretary Chu was reluctant to say whether or not Indian Point should be shut down. He said that the NRC will soon study the reactor as part of Obama’s directed review.
“The Indian Point reactor is not in the situation like in Japan, but … we will be looking at whether those evacuation plans are adequate,” he said on Fox News Sunday. “But again, I don't want to jump to some judgment about what we should do going forward."