As the world watches anxiously while Japanese authorities try to bring nuclear reactors under control at the crippled Fukushima Dai-Ichi power plant, it's natural to ask if nuclear plants elsewhere are safe.
"Can you assure the American people that the plants in this country are safe?" All Things Considered host Melissa Block asked Energy Secretary Steven Chu today.
"They are designed to be very safe," said Chu, a Nobel Prize-winning physicist. But, as with airplanes, oil wells and other complex machines, there's no "100 percent" safety guarantee.
When there are disasters, such as what happened in Fukushima following the March 11 earthquake and tsunami, "you double down and say 'all right ... [we] can make it safer,' " Chu added.
Melissa asked: Will the U.S. nuclear industry do that? "The nuclear industry is very concerned about these incidents," said Chu. And like the oil industry after last year's disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, the nuclear industry knows "it is in their best interests" to focus on safety.
More from their conversation will be on ATC today. The as-broadcast version will be posted here later.