More than two years after the tsunami-caused meltdown at Japan’s Fukushima nuclear-power plant, the effects of the disaster are ongoing and far-reaching.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is taking heat for downplaying the crisis to the International Olympic Committee, which recently awarded Tokyo the 2020 Olympic Games. At least one report says a diluted but still-radioactive plume from the plant could hit the West Coast of the United States next year. And South Korea may appeal to international courts as the leaks threaten marine life in its seas.
So why isn’t Fukushima getting much attention on Capitol Hill? While Syria, the budget, and — as always — Obamacare dominate the agenda, at least two House members think Fukushima should be part of the discussion as well. House Energy and Commerce Committee ranking member Henry Waxman, D-Calif., and Rep. Paul Tonko, D-N.Y., ranking member on the Environment and the Economy Subcommittee, are calling for new hearings to investigate the crisis.
The pair wrote last week to Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton, R-Mich., and Environment and the Economy Subcommittee Chairman John Shimkus, R-Ill., urging the committee to return its focus to the disaster.
When asked about the request, committee spokeswoman Charlotte Baker said the panel is planning an oversight hearing on the Nuclear Regulatory Commission later this fall and that Fukushima issues could be addressed then.
The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee has no hearing on Fukushima currently on its agenda.
Last week, at a hearing on the stalled nuclear-waste repository at Yucca Mountain in Nevada, Waxman quizzed NRC Chairwoman Allison Macfarlane on whether the Japanese plant’s leaks could endanger West Coast residents. Macfarlane said the threat was minimal because radiation will be diluted by the Pacific Ocean before it reaches the United States.
Some environmentalists aren’t so sure. “[Waxman] had it just right,” said Geoffrey Fettus, a senior project attorney for the Natural Resources Defense Council. “The lessons learned from this ongoing nuclear disaster should get attention from Congress as well as the agencies.”
While the disaster’s local impact is of concern, its implications for U.S. energy policy have not been adequately addressed, Fettus said: “The NRC’s response has been slow and grudging.”
Following the disaster and an NRC review, the agency issued three orders, including rules aimed at improving nuclear plants’ ability to cope with power losses, requirements for better venting, and instruments to track water levels in spent-fuel pools. Some in Congress think the venting systems should be required to include filters.
Meanwhile, signs indicate that Japan is still struggling with problems from the meltdown. An American filmmaker said last week he has documented low white-blood-cell counts and increased nosebleeds and rashes in residents near the disaster area. The Japanese press is speculating that an increase in problems could result in the country losing the Olympics — though International Olympic Committee media relations manager Andrew Mitchell said the IOC has “full confidence in the Japanese government regarding the situation in Fukushima.” To make matters worse, a typhoon hit Japan on Monday, forcing the Fukushima’s operator to release radioactive rainwater into the ocean.
“The scale of the cleanup is extraordinary,” Fettus said. “There’s an enormous amount we can learn about what to do in the event of a serious accident in this country.”
- 1 How Ron Wyden Banned Internet Taxes Forever
- 2 Obama’s Second-Term Agenda Hits a Roadblock: the Supreme Court
- 3 John Kasich Dismisses Climate Change As ‘Some Theory That’s Not Proven’
- 4 Obamacare Will Reduce Income Inequality, but Quietly
- 5 I Did Improv With the ‘Jeopardy Villain,’ and He’s Exactly as He Appears on Television
What We're Following See More »
Under pressure from a judge, the State Department will release about 550 of Hillary Clinton’s emails—“roughly 14 percent of the 3,700 remaining Clinton emails—on Saturday, in the middle of the Presidents Day holiday weekend.” All of the emails were supposed to have been released last month. Related: State subpoenaed the Clinton Foundation last year, which brings the total number of current Clinton investigations to four, says the Daily Caller.
UPDATED: Sen. Jim Webb (D-VA) will not be playing the role of Ralph Nader in this year’s election. Speaking in Dallas today, Webb said, “We looked at the possibility of an independent candidacy. Theoretically, it could be done, but it is enormously costly and time sensitive, and I don’t see the fundraising trajectory where we could make a realistic run.”
“The leaders of the Republican and Democratic national committees on Wednesday weighed in on the prospect of an independent presidential run by” former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg (I). “DNC Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz suggested that the former New York City mayor’s priorities are already ‘well cared-for’ in the Democratic platform, while RNC leader Reince Priebus welcomed the idea, saying Bloomberg would siphon off votes from the Democratic candidate.”
Three hundred fifty-two, thanks to superdelegates pledged to Clinton, and the vagaries of the delegate allocation process in early states. Not bad, considering her results have been a virtual tie and a blowout loss.