As a result of the massive earthquake that rocked Japan in March, the Japanese people will suffer grave human, environmental, and economic costs for years to come. They are facing the worst nuclear crisis since Chernobyl. And the truth is, it could happen in the United States at any moment.
The Japanese nuclear crisis has exposed some of the risks and vulnerabilities of nuclear power and the importance of making sure our nation's 104 nuclear power reactors are safer than they are today.
Please tell the Nuclear Regulatory Commission that it must make every effort to prevent such a disaster in the United States and take steps to make nuclear power in this country safer.
- Commissioners of the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission
What happened in Japan can happen in the United States. It is your job to make sure that it doesn't and that our nation's nuclear power plants operate safely. Even as the crisis in Japan continues, I urge you to take immediate action to enact and enforce safety and security reforms that will help prevent a nuclear catastrophe in the United States and improve public safety.
Specifically, I urge you to reduce the risks associated with how used nuclear fuel is stored after it is no longer being used for producing electricity. This dangerous "spent" fuel is currently vulnerable to terrorist attacks, and if a plant loses its ability to keep this fuel cool due to a prolonged power outage--such as what we witnessed in Japan--the plant risks the release of life-threatening radiation.
Experts at the Union of Concerned Scientists and the National Academy of Sciences say that by requiring plant owners to store more of its used fuel in dry casks instead of pools of water, many of these dangers can be reduced.
I also urge you to adopt a zero tolerance approach to safety violations and stringently enforce existing NRC regulations. The NRC must no longer ignore or tolerate problems at nuclear facilities and instead require plant operators to fix these safety and security issues.
While it is impossible to eliminate all of the risks associated with nuclear power, with proper and aggressive oversight, the NRC can make the operation of the nation's 104 nuclear reactors safer.
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