Calling the worst of the Japanese nuclear crisis possibly over, U.S. officials said on Sunday that the narrow line that stood between the meltdown and a far larger catastrophe had indelibly underscored the need for caution in advancing nuclear energy projects at home.
"Certainly, where you site reactors and where we site reactors going forward will be different," Energy Secretary Steven Chu said during an appearance on CNN’s State of the Union.
Asked by host Candy Crowley whether the worst of the nuclear dangers in Japan had passed, Chu replied, “Well, we believe so, but we don’t want to make a blanket statement.”
After dominating the news for most of the past week, Japan had receded by Sunday as the U.S.-led coalition stepped up military actions in Libya. But the prospect of a sustained debate over nuclear energy appeared likely.
“It’s pretty clear that the nuclear industry, as an electrical-generating part of our mix for the future, is now going to meet its maker in the marketplace,” said Rep. Edward Markey, D-Mass., a member of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce. “It won't be protesters. It will be Wall Street investors that are going to be raising real questions about its viability going forward.”
But the nation’s energy squeeze, only exacerbated by the ongoing Mideast instability, has forced a balance between safety concerns and pressure to draw power from as many sources as possible.
Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., faulted Obama's overall approach on energy, saying on Meet the Press, "We need more clean American energy. We have not seen that leadership. We have Gulf [of Mexico] oil production blocked, essentially," by a lack of new permits.
On the same show, Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., said nuclear power should stay in America's mix because of climate change. Levin said, "There ought to be a period here where all of our nuclear plants are tested... to make sure they are safe and this could never happen here."
He added, "It seems to me that the energy hope we have ultimately in terms of greenhouse gases is to move away from fossil fuels, and though we have to be very careful with nuclear power... we cannot give up on that possibility."
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