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US Senator wants brakes on nuke power plants until Japan tsunami ramification is known

March 14, 2011 - Washington

US Senator Joseph I. Lieberman has said that the Obama administration must put brakes, if not stops, on nuclear power plants in the country till they understand the ramification of what went wrong in Japan following an earthquake-cum-tsunami.

"I think it calls on us here in the U.S., naturally, not to stop building nuclear power plants but to put the brakes on right now until we understand the ramifications of what's happened in Japan," The New York Times quoted Lieberman, one of the Senate's leading voices on energy, as saying.

US President Barack Obama, mainstream environmental groups, large numbers of Republicans, and Democrats in Congress have been agreeing so far that nuclear power has offered a steady energy source and part of the solution to climate change, even as they disagreed on virtually every other aspect of energy policy.

Obama is seeking billions of dollars in government insurance for new nuclear construction, and the nuclear industry in the United States.

However, everything appears to be in doubt following the crisis in Japan's nuclear reactors and the widespread terror it has spawned.

Some staunch supporters of nuclear power are now demanding for a pause in licensing and building new reactors in the United States to make sure that proper safety and evacuation measures are in place.

Jason Grumet, President of the Bipartisan Policy Center in Washington and an energy and climate change adviser to the 2008 Obama campaign, said that the policy implications for the United States are in a state of worry.

"It's not possible to achieve a climate solution based on existing technology without a significant reliance on nuclear power. It's early to reach many conclusions about what happened in Japan and the relevance of what happened to the United States. But the safety of nuclear power will certainly be high on the list of questions for the next several months," Grumet said.

"The world is fundamentally a set of relative risks. The accident certainly has diminished what had been a growing impetus in the environmental community to support nuclear power as part of a broad bargain on energy and climate policy," he added.

Obama, however, still sees nuclear power as a major element of future American energy policy, but he has made caution while endorsing his ideas.

"The President believes that meeting our energy needs means relying on a diverse set of energy sources that includes renewables like wind and solar, natural gas, clean coal and nuclear power. Information is still coming in about the events unfolding in Japan, but the administration is committed to learning from them and ensuring that nuclear energy is produced safely and responsibly here in the U.S.," White House spokesman Clark Stevens said.


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