April 6, 2011: Statement at Hearing on Nuclear Power Plant Incident in Japan

Statement of Congressman Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.)
“The U.S. Government Response to the Nuclear Power Plant Incident in Japan”
Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations

April 6, 2011
 

“On March 28, 1979, almost exactly 32 years ago, a partial core meltdown at the Three Mile Island nuclear power plant terrified the nation and caused a full-scale re-evaluation of the nuclear industry in our country.
 
  “On April 26, 1986, almost exactly 25 years ago, the meltdown caused by the Chernobyl nuclear power plant spewed highly radioactive smoke all over Europe. Again, the world was appalled, and promised increased safety.
 
“Today, we see that we are just as helpless when faced with nuclear disaster as we were 25 and 32 years ago.
 
“The cores of at least two of the Japanese reactors are severely damaged. I have been informed by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission that the core of Unit Two has gotten so hot that part of it has probably melted through the reactor pressure vessel.
 
“To bring the reactors and their spent fuel pools under control, the Japanese have had to resort to sending young workers in to risk their lives as they operate what amount to giant water guns. 

“To assess and then sop up the radioactive water that has begun spewing into the ocean, they are relying on the use of bath salts and diapers.
 
“Just like the use of pantyhose and golf balls to stop last year’s oil spill, the Japanese have been compelled to try a “nuclear junk shot” in desperate attempts to stop an environmental calamity.

“Yet the Nuclear Regulatory Commission insists that our systems are safe, even before beginning, let alone completing, its review of our reactors and spent fuel pools.
 
“It does so in the face of its own analysis showing that there is a higher risk of core damage from earthquakes that has not yet been incorporated into regulatory requirements.
 
“It does so in the face of backup electricity requirements that are generally less stringent than what the Fukushima reactors were equipped with.
 
“And it does so after removing the post-Three Mile Island requirement to include systems to prevent the explosions of hydrogen that occurred at Fukushima from its regulations.
 
“I have introduced legislation, the Nuclear Power Plant Safety Act of 2011, to impose a moratorium on all pending NRC licenses and re-licenses in light of the need to fully understand the safety risks and include remedies into our own regulations.  Many other countries have announced similar measures.  I look forward to today’s testimony.”
 
Information on the latest status of the Fukushima reactors was gathered from communications between Congressman Markey’s office and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC).
 
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Emails from NRC here and here.