U.S. Tightens Nuclear Safety Measures

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"Japan's nuclear crisis has U.S. officials scrambling."

Japan's nuclear crisis has U.S. officials scrambling to make sure it won't happen in their country.

Even long-time supporters of nuclear energy admit the crisis in Japan has been a serious surprise.

Joshua Freed, Director of Third Way Clean Energy Program, said, "A 9.0 earthquake and tsunami is something nobody expected or predicted."

Joshua Freed is the director of the Clean Energy Program at Third Way—a moderate Washington think tank. He says nuclear energy is still a key part of America's future energy needs.

He said, "Nuclear energy is critical. We get 20% from nuclear. 68% of electricity is from fossil fuels like gas and coal."

But despite the environmental pollution from fossil fuels—some energy analysts say it appears they may be safer than nuclear energy.

Richard Capertion, policy analyst of Center for American Progress, said, "Every reactor in the U.S. is designed to withstand natural disaster like earthquakes and tsunamis.

"As we saw in Japan though, even if you design what you expect will happen those expectations can be exceeded."

Center for American Progress analyst Richard Caperton says they don't really know the extent of the danger or if we're capable of an effective response.

He said, "Because we haven't built in 30 years it's hard to know what the risks are. It's hard to know the cost or how long it will take."

Greg Jaczko, Chairman of Nuclear Regulatory Commission, said, "As an independent regulatory agency we will continue to take new information and see if there are changes that we need to make to our program."

The Obama Administration remains committed to its plan to expand nuclear energy and is brushing aside calls for a freeze. But Josh Freed believes they may want to wait until the full extent of this crisis is understood.

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