A second explosion at Japan's Fukushima Daiichi nuclear complex on Monday is further raising concerns for the nuclear industry in the United States and around the world.
“We just have to call a time-out and examine whether or not those safety features necessary in the future are built into new nuclear power plants in our country,” Rep. Edward Markey, D-Mass., said on CNN’s American Morning.
In a March 11 letter to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Markey called for a moratorium on the construction of new nuclear power plants.
Monday’s explosion at Fukushima Daiichi Unit 3 was similar to Saturday's blast at Unit 1, Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano told reporters, according to NPR. In addition, Tokyo Electric Power said that a third reactor at the complex began experiencing cooling problems similar to those of the first two, where overheating led to blasts.
Former International Atomic Energy Agency inspector Olli Heinonen says that the aftermath of the crisis unfolding in Japan will certainly slow the global nuclear renaissance.
“I'm sure it will have an impact, in the short term at least. I think we will see some slowing down of those plants,” Heinonen said on CNN’s American Morning. “On the other hand, many of these nuclear power plants are under construction, and I don't think the countries will stop them.”
Following Friday’s 8.9-magnitude earthquake and deadly tsunami, up to 11 nuclear reactors have been shut down in Japan.
In addition to Markey, U.S. lawmakers have sounded off on the safety of nuclear power, something President Obama has previously included in the administration’s energy plans.
Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Chairman Joe Lieberman, ID-Conn., said on CBS’s Face the Nation on Sunday the U.S. government should “put the brakes on” building more nuclear power plants.
Meanwhile, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., argued that the U.S should not back down from nuclear expansion.
“This discussion reminds me somewhat of the conversations that were going on after the BP oil spill last year,” he said on Fox News Sunday. “I don’t think right after a major environmental catastrophe is a very good time to be making American domestic policy.”
These concerns are expected to come up this week before the House Energy and Commerce Committee, where NRC Chairman Gregory Jaczko and Energy Secretary Steven Chu will testify on Wednesday.
“We will use that opportunity to explore what is known in the early aftermath of the damage to Japanese nuclear facilities,” Energy and Commerce Chairman Fred Upton, R-Mich., said in a statement about the hearing, which was scheduled as a fiscal 2012 budget discussion for the Department of Energy and NRC.