In the aftermath of the Fukushima nuclear plant disaster, U.S. regulators have sought tougher standards on nuclear safety at home. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has given the green light on most of the safety upgrades recommended by a task force in July, which indicated the “existing patchwork of regulatory requirements and other safety initiatives” is not enough. It will take up to five years to implement the new requirements, including better preparedness for power loss, floods and earthquakes.
Disaster preparedness is not a hypothetical discussion. In September, at least 27 nuclear reactors showed risk in the 5.8 earthquake on the East Coast. Yet before Fukushima, lawmakers belittled the issue of nuclear safety, including a number of Republican senators. Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) recognized the need for “straight talk” only after Japan’s crisis:
McCain: I think what happens now to this power plant as to whether the damage is contained or not will have a direct effect on the future of nuclear power in the United States. Let’s have a little straight talk.
Before the disaster in Japan, McCain dismissed nuclear safety. His views on the issue in his 2008 presidential campaign amounted to “blah, blah, blah.”