Here’s a bit of the discussion from this morning’s Meet the Press. Host David Gregory mostly focused on Libya, appropriately, with Sens. John Kerry (D-Mass.), Carl Levin (D-Mich.) and Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), then turned to Japan. (Transcript cleaned up a little to cover pauses and such.)
MR. GREGORY: I want to turn to Japan, another crisis that the president is facing, and, of course, what the Japanese are dealing with. Here are some of the latest facts to emerge out of the disaster in Japan. The death toll now upwards of 8,100. Still so many missing, and the number of missing well over 12,000. Some signs of hope, though. Incredible images coming out of Japan early today from Ishinomaki as there were incredible rescues of a teenager as well as an 80-year-old grandmother who was stuck inside of her house. Thankfully, though, those two people were rescued.
But, Senator Levin, as the nuclear emergency continues in Japan there are real questions about the future of nuclear power in this country. After Three Mile Island back in 1979, as a young senator you called for a moratorium of six months on any nuclear power plants in the United States. Should that hold true now?
SEN. LEVIN: Well, I think there ought to be a period here where all of our nuclear plants are tested very, very carefully to make sure that they are safe, and to make sure that this cannot happen here. But I don't think that we can say that we're not going to continue to use nuclear power. Europe depends heavily on it, and they have found it to be safe. We use it a lot. We have found it, since Three Mile Island, to be safe. And it seems to me that the great hope that we have, ultimately, in terms of greenhouse gas is to move away from fossil fuels. And although I think we have to be mighty careful about nuclear power, we should put a lot of effort into seeing what we can do with the waste, that we cannot give up on that possibility because of the climate change which is occurring from fossil fuels.
MR. GREGORY: Senator Kerry, about 30 seconds here. How big of a blow has nuclear power, as part of our energy mix, been dealt here?
SEN. KERRY: Well, I think it's taken some hit, obviously. But I think it's going to cause everybody to look for the fail-safe methodology and what the next generation of nuclear power might or might not be. I think, you know, of equal urgency is simply responding to the demand of climate change and the need to move away from fossil fuels. The faster we build an energy grid in America that we move to solar, thermal, other things, I think the marketplace will make that decision for us.
MR. GREGORY: Senator Sessions, after the gulf oil spill, after the nuclear emergency in Japan, do you think the president is capable of leading a bipartisan effort to really make energy policy a priority, and to lead to some change?
SEN. SESSIONS: He has to do that. He has not done that. The Energy Department seems to be putting out more roadblocks on American energy production than actually leading in the way to produce more energy. We need more clean, American energy. Now, that is a driving force for this country right now. We're not seeing that leadership. We've got gulf oil production blocked basically by not getting permits. Only two have been made since the oil spill.
MR. GREGORY: Right.
SEN. SESSIONS: And we need to get moving. We simply cannot afford not to.
MR. GREGORY: I'm going to have to make that the last word. Senators, thank you all very much.
That’s almost a clean sweep, but that “almost” is because Sen. Sessions was set on a different track. Here’s Sessions in The Birmingham News on Thursday:
I think we ought to check everything for safety," Shelby said. "If we have to build in some safety, let's do it."
Sessions said the Nuclear Regulatory Commission should learn from the Japanese experience and re-examine American plants. But he also doesn't want to stop work on building new nuclear plants.
"All I'm saying is we don't need to overreact because nuclear power has to be a part of the clean energy future," Sessions said.
Okay, now it’s a clean sweep.