The Washington Post

Republican leaders express support for nuclear energy as Chu seeks funding for two new reactors

As the debate over nuclear energy heats up around the world, U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu was on Capitol Hill Wednesday asking Congress for money to build two new plants.

Chu and Gregory Jaczko, the chairman of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, didn’t mention the crisis in Japan in their prepared remarks for the hearing which was convened to address the energy department’s budget. But key Republicans in the House Energy and Commerce Committee expressed their support for nuclear energy despite the tragic events in Japan.

House Energy and Power Subcommittee Chairman Ed Whitfield (R-K.Y.)

I know we will learn a great deal from the events unfolding in Japan, but in the process we should not do anything from a regulatory or legislative standpoint to unnecessarily threaten the continued development of what is a safe and important part of our base-load power system here in the United States.

Environment and Economy Subcommittee Chairman John Shimkus (R-Ill.)

Notwithstanding the fact our hearts and prayers go out to the people of Japan, we should not use these once in a life time events, as an excuse to shutter our domestic nuclear capacity and the clean air benefits that come with it.

Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.)

I live 15 miles from two nuclear power plants, so the safety of U.S. nuclear facilities is not an issue I take lightly. I am not straying from my support for nuclear energy as a vital component of America’s present and future energy mix. It is just as important to dispel overstated fears as it is to discuss legitimate concerns, and I know we can begin the process of doing both.

Ariana Eunjung Cha is a national reporter. She has previously served as the Post's bureau chief in Shanghai and San Francisco, and as a correspondent in Baghdad.

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