Inhofe/Upton Op Ed: One year after Fukushima our nuclear industry remains ever vigilant
March 12, 2012
Posted by Katie Brown Katie_Brown@epw.senate.gov
In Case You Missed It
The Hill Op Ed
One year after Fukushima our nuclear industry remains ever vigilant
By Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.) and Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.)
March 10, 2012
On the one year anniversary of the Fukushima nuclear accident, our thoughts and prayers are with those who lost loved ones in the Great Tohoku Earthquake and resulting tsunami.
The Fukushima accident was a watershed event for the Japanese just as Three Mile Island was for us. The Japanese are learning many lessons from it and instituting changes, just as we added protections following Three Mile Island. The Japanese have learned the importance of an independent safety regulator, just as we created the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) as an independent agency in 1974. They have learned the need for strict siting and design requirements, just as we have through the NRC's "design basis." They have learned the critical importance of adequate power supplies, just as the U.S. industry and NRC did in the 1980's.
Thoroughly assessing events and improving nuclear safety is a hallmark of the U.S. nuclear industry and the NRC. This watchful eye is focused beyond domestic events and broader than just nuclear events, as evidenced by the security improvements derived from the first World Trade Center bombing in 1993. This vigilant attention toward improving nuclear safety is the chief reason why our nuclear industry and regulatory system is considered the gold standard world-wide.
The regulatory requirements the NRC recently put in place are the result of a systematic evaluation of what lessons Fukushima can teach us here in the U.S. The NRC has prioritized what is most important to safety and is proceeding to implement the highest priority changes first, while research continues on longer-term issues. This is not a fast process, but it is critical to ensuring that changes are not just being made, but that they are the right changes with the highest safety benefits.
Reflecting back on what happened in Japan, it is important to remember that the news coverage of the 24,000 dead or missing as the result of the earthquake and tsunami was often overshadowed by minute-by-minute coverage of this nuclear incident. Our sympathy for those who perished, and those who still struggle, is a reminder that we need to have balance in our reaction to the nuclear accident itself.
At the end of the day, the U.S. needs and benefits from clean, reliable, affordable electricity provided by nuclear energy. We can take comfort from the industry and the NRC's assurances, not just that our plants are safe today, but that they are working constantly to keep them safe and make them safer.
Rep. Upton (R-Mich.) is chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee. Sen. Inhofe (R-Okla.) is ranking member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.