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Former NRC Commissioner - “Keep calm and carry on with nuclear energy”

Jeff Merrifield, former NRC commissioner, has a post in The Hill’s Congress Blog reflecting on the reactions of anti-nuclear folks after 9/11 to their reactions today to the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear accident:

While many are taking measured responses to the recent events in Japan, there has been one predictable exception.  

Members of the anti-nuclear community and their supporters in Congress have taken to the media to demand that some or all of our nation’s 104 nuclear power plants be shut down and construction of new nuclear power plants be stopped.    

As I listened to some of their arguments, I had a déjà vu moment, remembering several of these same arguments from many of the same individuals immediately after the 9/11 attacks on the Pentagon and World Trade Center.

I was serving as a commissioner of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) at that time and remember vividly testifying before House and Senate committees on security issues. Members of Congress spoke of shutting down the essential nuclear energy facilities, arming them with mobile missile systems or surrounding them with large steel monoliths to protect against commercial airliners.

What we did then, and what we need to do right now while events still unfold at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear site, is avoid a rush to judgment. We should allow the NRC time to conduct an in-depth review of the events that occurred and make common sense recommendations for assuring safe operation of U.S. reactors. After the 9/11 attacks, the NRC, in concert with the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Energy, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, undertook a comprehensive review of the nation’s nuclear power plants. The agencies sought to determine if there were steps that would enhance the ability of utilities to respond to terrorist attacks, as well as mitigate the effects of large fires and explosions that could result from these activities.

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