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US defends nuclear power

The Three Mile
Island nuclear power
plant in the
United States
Washington DC, United States — ESI-AFRICA.COM — 17 March 2011 – U.S. energy secretary Steven Chu has offered a cautious defense of nuclear power in the face of the nuclear reactor crisis in Japan, and has reassured Americans that U.S. domestic power plants are safe.

Reuters reports that the Obama administration has maintained its support for expanding U.S. use of nuclear energy, despite renewed fears about its safety after an earthquake-crippled nuclear plant in Japan exploded and sent low levels of radiation toward Tokyo.

Chu “’ President Barack Obama’s top energy official “’ told a congressional committee that the United States needed a diverse mix of energy sources, including nuclear.

Asked about the prospects for a ‘brake’ on nuclear expansion in the face of events in Japan, Chu declined to offer a robust backing for the industry, emphasising instead that lessons could be learned from the tragedy unfolding there.

“We have to take a hard look: were there any lessons learned from this tragedy that can further improve the safety of our existing reactors?” he asked. “It’s probably premature to say anything except that we will learn from this."

Democratic Senator Jeff Bingaman, chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, said his panel might hold hearings about how Japan’s nuclear disaster might impact the U.S. nuclear industry.

The potential catastrophe in Japan has shaken confidence in nuclear power in some countries while others, such as the United States, have reaffirmed their commitment to it.

Germany said it would shut down all seven of its nuclear power stations that began operating before 1980 for at least three months, and Switzerland put on hold some approvals for nuclear power plants.

Nuclear energy currently provides about 20% of American electricity.