Senate Panel Prods NRC to Act on Fukushima Report

WASHINGTON, Aug. 2 - Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) today pressed the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission to aggressively implement task force recommendations on reactor safety in the wake of Japan's nuclear crisis.

"Delay is not an acceptable option," Sanders said at an Environment and Public Works Committee hearing in Washington. "We must do everything in our power to make sure nuclear power plants are safe and that this country never experiences what happened in Japan."

Sanders spoke at a hearing called to look into NRC foot dragging on the recommendations. "I applaud the recommendations made by the task force, but I am disturbed that a majority of the NRC does not want to move forward on all 12 recommendations within three months," Sanders told the commissioners. "I know what delay means in this town, it means nothing is going to happen."

After a March 11 earthquake and tsunami caused meltdowns and radiation leaks at Japan's Fukushima nuclear plant, a task force recommended safety improvements for the 104 U.S. commercial reactors. Twenty-three nuclear reactors in the United States, including Vermont Yankee, share the same General Electric design as the reactors at Fukushima.

Sanders also cited an Associated Press investigation that pointed out flaws in safety regulations at U.S. nuclear plants and found a cozy relationship between the NRC and the nuclear power industry it regulates. "Federal regulators have been working closely with the nuclear power industry to keep the nation's aging reactors operating within safety standards by repeatedly weakening those standards, or simply failing to enforce them," according to the AP investigation.

At the Senate hearing, Sanders supported NRC Chairman Gregory Jaczko's roadmap for action which calls for agency to respond to the task force recommendation within 90 days.

Some commissioners are not supportive of taking action on all 12 safety recommendations made by the task force within three months. Commissioners William Magwood, Kristine Svinicki and William Ostendorff have called for more study of at least some of the recommendations, while Commissioner George Apostolakis supports taking action in 90 days.