U.S. Rep. Chris Gibson said on Monday that the tragedy in Japan has not caused him to rethink his goal of locating a nuclear power plant in the region, but that lessons learned from the Japanese crisis should be incorporated into U.S. nuclear policy.
"I've said that all along, that safety is a concern of mine going forward," Gibson, R-Kinderhook, said in a conference call with reporters. "We're not looking at building your father's nuclear power plant. We want to have the state of the art, the world's best, nuclear power plant."
Japan's nuclear plant explosions have caused some policymakers around the world to question the safety of nuclear energy.
Switzerland ordered a freeze on new plants or replacements on Monday, and Germany's government said it is suspending for three months a decision on whether to extend permits for its nuclear power plants, the Associated Press reported.
U.S. Sen. Joseph Lieberman, i-Conn., called this weekend for a moratorium on new nuclear plants in the United States.
But Gibson and others said the U.S. government should not rule out nuclear power as part of its energy strategy.
"On that score, I'm certainly in good company with President Obama and Sen. (Charles) Schumer, our own senator from New York," Gibson said in the conference call.
Contacted for a response, Schumer spokesman Matt House said soaring energy prices make it essential to reduce reliance on foreign oil.
"Senator Schumer believes that means developing alternatives like wind, solar and, if it is done safely and carefully, nuclear power," House said.
White House spokesman Jay Carey said on Monday that nuclear power remains a part of the president's overall energy plan, the Associated Press reported.
Gibson said preliminary reports are that cooling systems on Japan's nuclear power plants continued to operate after the earthquake, until the tsunami hit and flooded diesel-powered backup generators.
If that is true, then it must be determined whether it is feasible that both an earthquake and a tsunami could strike a nuclear plant here, and if so, whether technology would be adequate to sustain the impact, Gibson said.
"At least in the initial brief, I believe we are tracking on the right questions. And what's important now is we stay very closely tuned and monitor the situation in Japan," he said.
Gibson said his volunteer energy task force is still scheduled to conduct its initial meeting next week to begin developing a strategy that would include nuclear and various forms of alternative energy.