ABC News’ Rick Klein reports:
With the disaster in Japan prompting a reexamination of nuclear safety issues, the Senate’s top Democrat on energy issues said today that the US should continue to pursue new nuclear power options.
On ABC’s “Top Line” today, Senate Energy Chairman Jeff Bingaman told us that while it’s too early to draw conclusions about safety concerns based on what’s happening in Japan, it doesn’t change the fact that nuclear power can and will be produced safely in the United States.
“We have depended on nuclear power for many decades to meet much of our electricity needs, and I think we will continue to in the future,” said Bingaman, D-N.M. “And I do believe we can produce power safely. We’ve done that. We’ve done it for many decades.”
“Clearly we need to be sure that the design that we are using in our power plants is the very best and the safest design. And whatever changes we need to make to those designs or to the regulations of those plants we need to make. But I’m not persuaded that nuclear power should be deleted from the list of options that we look at.”
Bingaman said the Nuclear Regulatory Commission may wind up making changes on safety requirements and regulations as a result of what we learn from Japan.
Still, a strong majority of senators continue to support nuclear power, Bingaman said.
“Most members I believe recognize the importance that nuclear energy provides in our energy mix. I’m a strong believer that we need to have a diversified set of supplies for our energy needs, and nuclear power is one of them.”
We got the opposite view from another senator who has long opposed nuclear power.
“I never thought it was a good option, well before the horrendous situation in Japan,” Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., told us on “Top Line.” “I think it’s not only the unthinkable, what is apparently happening in Japan today, but if you were to ask any expert what is the most expensive way to produce new energy, you know what it is? It’s nuclear energy.”
On another energy issue, Bingaman said President Obama should stand ready to tap the Strategic Petroleum Reserve only if there’s a significant new supply problem – not simply if gas prices rise further.
“There has been some supply disruption on oil coming out of Libya. If that were to increase, if we were to see further problems coming out of Libya, then I think the president would have to look at it very seriously,” Bingaman said.
Watch the interview with Sen. Jeff Bingaman HERE.
And watch the segment with Sen. Bernie Sanders HERE.