WASHINGTON (March 25, 2011) – President Barack Obama should launch an independent investigation into the safety of the nation’s 104 nuclear power plants in the wake of Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi tragedy, Frances Beinecke, president of the Natural Resources Defense Council, said today.
“We urge you to commission an independent inquiry which will help to ensure the adequacy of, and increase public confidence in, the measures to be taken in response to Japan’s nuclear crisis,” Beinecke wrote in a letter to the president.
Such an investigation, she said, should assess the causes of Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear accident and how such accidents can be prevented, especially at U.S. reactors with similar designs and spent fuel storage pools.
Pending a full independent investigation, she wrote, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission should suspend granting license renewals to nuclear power plants in high seismic hazard areas, and review the licenses it has granted to nuclear plants in such areas.
“We believe it is important that you now establish an independent commission to explore the root causes and consequences of the still unfolding disaster at Fukushima Daiichi in light of the renewed public concern regarding the serious hazards to public safety. This includes threats that may be triggered by so-called “beyond design basis” events—both natural and man-made– that could occur at U.S. nuclear power plants.
“Review of the implications of this disaster should not be limited to the NRC assessing the adequacy of its own previous rules and decisions. This would be problematic for any entity, but is particularly the case for the NRC, which has long been seen as a weak regulator with insufficient independence from the industry it oversees.”
“Thus an independent commission can help objectively determine national and global ramifications for the siting and safe operation of nuclear power plants and provide a credible assessment of the adequacy of what the NRC and the nuclear power industry will recommend as the appropriate responses to the accident.”
While the situation at Fukushima Daiichi remains dire and uncertain, she wrote, “it is already clear that clinging to the status quo offers inadequate insurance against the recurrence of such a catastrophic nuclear event in the United States,” Beinecke said.
The full letter can be found here: http://docs.nrdc.org/nuclear/files/nuc_11032401a.pdf.