U.S. Power Plants Should Withstand Natural Disasters

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The Obama administration is not backing away from nuclear power. That's despite the danger facing Japan, as that country tries to cool several reactors following last week's earthquake. The White House is offering reassurance that U.S. plants are built to withstand natural disasters.


The Obama administration is not backing away from nuclear power, despite the dangers now facing Japan. The White House is offering reassurance that plants in the United States are built to withstand natural disasters. NPR's Scott Horsley reports.

SCOTT HORSLEY: Officials who oversee nuclear plants in the U.S. are keeping a close eye on what's happening in Japan. But Greg Jaczko, who chairs the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, insists the problems at the Fukushima Daiichi reactors have not shaken his confidence.

Mr. GREG JACZKO (Nuclear Regulatory Commission): Whenever there's any new information, we always make changes, if necessary. But right now we continue to believe that nuclear power plants in this country operate safely and securely.

HORSLEY: And for an administration determined to address the challenge of climate change, nuclear power is hard to turn down. As Deputy Energy Secretary Dan Poneman notes, nuclear is by far the biggest source of electricity that doesn't contribute to greenhouse gases. It produces twice as much electricity in the U.S. as wind, solar and hydro power combined.

Mr. DAN PONEMAN (Department of Energy Deputy Secretary): It's 20 percent of the electricity of this country, 70 percent of the carbon-free electricity. We view nuclear energy as a very important component to the overall portfolio we're trying to build for a clean energy future.

HORSLEY: Poneman says lessons learned at Three Mile Island eventually resulted in safer nuclear plants, but that accident also brought nuclear development in the U.S. to a near-standstill, something the administration hopes to avoid with this latest disaster.

Scott Horsley, NPR News, the White House.

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