The Nuclear Question

The head of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission answers questions about the safety of U.S. nuclear plants, what to do with aging plants and upgrading safety standards on the PBS show NewsHour.
The ongoing nuclear crisis at Fukushima, where workers measured fatal levels of radiation, has created a whirlwind of debate over the future of nuclear energy around the globe. For five months, the Japanese people have been displaced from their homes and have had to fear reports of radiation-tainted food, particularly beef and fish, and radioactive groundwater. Any Japanese citizen under the age of 18 living in Fukushima during this disaster, which began as a result of the 9.0 earthquake and tsunami on March 11, has been granted government-funded cancer screenings for their entire lives.

Countries like Germany have vowed to end their nuclear programs within the next ten years and Naoto Kan, Japan’s prime minister, recently announced that he would now like to see the end of nuclear power as well. He told reporters last month that “We should gradually and systematically reduce reliance on nuclear power and eventually aim at a society where people can live without nuclear power plants.”

Since the U.S. has no official plans to end its nuclear program, Americans have been sounding off their concerns over the safety of the nation’s power plants. Gregory Jaczko, the head of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), the agency responsible for setting safety standards for all U.S. nuclear plants, spoke on PBS’s NewsHour about the NRC’s post-Fukushima stance on re-licensing aging nuclear plants, upgrading safety standards and approving applications for new domestic power plants.