The disaster in Japan and the rising threat of nuclear meltdown from damaged reactors should trigger a “long overdue discussion of energy security” but does not raise new safety concerns about nuclear power, Senator John Kerry said today.
“A lot of folks took a new hard look at nuclear because it’s low carbon energy, but the safety questions about meltdowns and waste were always part of the discussion,” the Massachusetts Democrat said in a statement.
Kerry’s comments on nuclear energy came in response to the rising threat posed by the badly damaged Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station, where worries of nuclear meltdown have been rising since last week’s massive quake and tsunami.
“We should absolutely know who is in charge in the United States if our existing nuclear plants are endangered by a natural disaster, and we should be looking hard at the siting issues, but again these aren’t new questions,” he said.
Senator Joe Lieberman of Connecticut, a long-time supporter of nuclear energy who co-authored a climate change bill with Kerry lest year, called over the weekend for the United States to “put the brakes on” nuclear power until events unfolding in Japan are understood.
Kerry’s statement did not call for any kind of change in policy with respect to nuclear energy, but did provide a reminder of sorts for why skeptics came to support nuclear power as a flawed but necessary part of a national clean energy policy.
“In recent years, environmentalists and policy makers in both parties started taking a fresh look at nuclear power because none of our current energy options are without a downside,” he said.
“It’s up to all of us to make sure it’s a productive policy discussion that recognizes we have to get our energy from somewhere, and right now none of our options are entirely attractive.”
U.S. Representative Edward J. Markey, a Democrat from Malden, called on the Obama administration to distribute potassium iodide, which is ingested to protect the thyroid gland from radiation, to residents within 20 miles of nuclear plants.
Congress approved the requirement in legislation in 2002, but the federal government never instituted the policy proposed by Markey, who is a senior member of the Energy and Commerce Committee.
“We should not wait for a catastrophic accident at or a terrorist attack on a nuclear reactor in this country to occur to implement this common-sense emergency preparedness measure,” Markey wrote in the letter to John Holdren, the director of the Office of Science & Technology Policy.
About Political Intelligence
Glen Johnson is Politics Editor at boston.com and lead blogger for "Political Intelligence." He moved to Massachusetts in the fourth grade, and has covered local, state, and national politics for over 25 years. E-mail him at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @globeglen.