Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) said Tuesday that it would be “foolhardy” to abandon the construction of nuclear reactors in Virginia and elsewhere in the United States because of the unfolding nuclear crisis at earthquake and tsunami-damaged plants in Japan.
In an interview, McDonnell, a longtime supporter of nuclear power, characterized the problems in Japan as the result of “historic” and “cataclysmic” events. He said nuclear science has advanced to make such plants safe, and Virginia would not need to fear similar crises, in part because it is not earthquake-prone and its plants are far from the coast.
“These are cataclysmic events that I don’t see affecting Virginia,” McDonnell said. “I think it would be foolhardy to abandon the industry. ... We stand to benefit immensely from more nuclear development in this country. I think it’s the right thing to do to prudently move forward with nuclear plant construction.”
He said generation of electricity — from coal to oil and gas extraction to nuclear power — is “inherently dangerous.” But he said science and government regulation has ensured that “everything humanly possible” is done to make nuclear power safe.
“I think that’s the best you can expect out of an industry and that’s the highest standard we should apply in the culture,” he said. “But as long as there are uncertainties in nature and there is potential for human error, we’re never going to make it 100 percent fail-safe.”
Virginia has nuclear plants in Louisa and Surry counties. Dominion Virginia Power has applied to build a third reactor at one of its two plants at North Anna in Louisa; the company has confirmed it will proceed with its application despite the events in Japan.
“Overall in America, it’s been one of the safest forms of electrical generation,” he said.