Richardson: Tough Days for US Nuclear Industry

Tuesday, 15 Mar 2011 08:08 AM

By Hiram Reisner

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Former Energy Secretary Bill Richardson says nuclear power is still critical to U.S. energy policy, but tough days lie ahead for the industry, and the safety of new and existing plants should be of vital concern. Richardson, who also was governor of New Mexico, Monday told CNN the main lesson to be learned from the Japanese catastrophe is the need for energy diversification.

bilol, richardson, nuclear, industry“Well, it's going to be tough days ahead for the nuclear power industry. We have 104 reactors in 31 states; 20 percent of our energy is nuclear. The administration wants to build 20 new power plants – nuclear power plants in the next 20 years or so,” Richardson said on “Piers Morgan Tonight.”

“They're going to have some tough times. I do think that nuclear power is important. It emits no greenhouse gas emissions – so it's not a pollutant,” he said. “But there's some safety issues that, because of this accident, are going to have to be addressed.

“I think in any future plans, we have to be careful about building any new facilities in seismically active areas,” Richardson continued. “We have to be sure that containment vessels are built very strongly in earthquake-prone areas. And we have to look at the 31 plants that use similar technology to the ones that have been used in Japan. I think the main message in our nuclear energy policy is we have to continue it, but it has to be done carefully.

“We should use this time for a pause, a time-out – not a moratorium – but to make sure that we learn some lessons from what's happened here in Japan.”

Richardson noted another lesson from the Japan catastrophe is the need to move to more diverse sources of energy.

“We can't just do fossil fuels, coal, oil, nuclear,” Richardson said. “Those industries are important. But we have to shift, I think, more toward renewable, towards natural gas.

“We need to find ways to diversify and that's the main lesson.”

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