From: Ayesha Rascoe and Roberta Rampton, Reuters, WASHINGTON |
Published March 24, 2011 06:48 AM

U.S. nuclear agency plans safety review

The top U.S. nuclear regulator on Wednesday approved the launch of a safety review of U.S. nuclear reactors sought by President Barack Obama in response to the ongoing crisis at Japan's Fukushima plant.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission voted to create an agency task force made up of current and former commission experts that will review the information from the disaster and advise whether any changes are needed at U.S. nuclear plants.

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"We will perform a systematic and methodical review to see if there are changes that should be made to our programs and regulations to ensure protection of public health and safety," NRC head Gregory Jaczko said in a statement.

For almost two weeks, the Japanese government has struggled to avert a major meltdown at the Fukushima plant, which lost power after being battered by a 9.0 magnitude earthquake and a tsunami. The crisis has raised concerns about the safety of nuclear plants worldwide.

President Barack Obama last week requested a review of U.S. nuclear plants while maintaining his support for atomic energy, which supplies about 20 percent of U.S. electricity.

Companies had been planning their first new additions to the U.S. nuclear fleet since a 1979 accident at the Three Mile Island nuclear plant in Pennsylvania stopped expansion.

The NRC has been evaluating applications for new construction licenses from Southern Co and SCANA Corp to build two reactors each.

Photo credit:  Federal Emergency Management Administration

Article continues: http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/03/24/us-usa-nuclear-review-idUSTRE72M8YK20110324

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