Kirk, Durbin Grill Nuclear Safety Experts

CHICAGO (CBS/WBBM) — More questions emerged Friday about the safety of U.S. nuclear power plants and about the agency charged with overseeing them.

Top federal lawmakers met in Chicago with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and taking a hard look at making some safety changes.

LISTEN: Newsradio 780’s Mike Krauser reports

NRC deputy regional administrator Cynthia Pederson said there is no immediate need for changes here in the wake of the nuclear drama in tsunami-ravaged Japan.

But U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk, R-Highland Park, suggested Congress needs to be more involved with the work of the nation’s nuclear oversight panel.  

“There’s no substitute for congressional and press oversight,” Kirk told reporters.

The Inspector General released a report calling the agency’s oversight of the country’s nuclear plants unclear and contradictory. It found that two dozen equipment defects were identified at nuclear plants but were not reported to the NRC.

braidwood Kirk, Durbin Grill Nuclear Safety Experts

The Braidwood nuclear power plant (CBS)

Both Kirk and Sen. Dick Durbin, a Springfield Democrat, are concerned about the more than 7,000 tons of nuclear waste that is currently being stored in Illinois. Illinois has the most nuclear plants of any state.

“We have two nuclear reactors that are of the same design as those that have failed in Japan,” Durbin said.

Durbin and Kirk both believe the waste should be stored in Yucca Mountain, Nev., where it would be 100 miles from any town.  The chief operating officer of the nation’s biggest nuclear power producer says that, no matter what happens, Illinoisans need not worry. 

“Let me assure you that we have full confidence that our plants in Illinois and elsewhere are safe,” Exelon’s Charles Pardee said.

Durbin says one possible solution would be re-processing or recycling spent nuclear fuel. He said that is being done in other countries and the strategy needs to be considered here.

Durbin asked Joseph Klinger, who’s in charge of nuclear safety for the state, for the number of people who live near nuclear plants. Within 10 miles, there are about 180,000 Illinoisans, Klinger said.

Asked by Kirk whether the state has enough doses of potassium iodide for those people in the event of an emergency, Klinger replied: “We don’t have that much.”

Durbin and Kirk aren’t the only elected officials wondering about the safety of Illinois nuclear power plants. Gov. Pat Quinn has suggested reviewing the state’s system of safety inspections and possibly charging power producers additional fees to step up safety measures.

  • Aneetta

    We all hope nothing explodes right in there because there are a lot of people living in the area and can be contaminated with radiation just like Japan.
    Are this reactors safe enough to operate?
    Where are the discharges going? because they have a lot of radiation on it.
    And the food and animals all will be contaminated.
    Please have a lot of bottled water ready just in case something happens.

  • Mr. Electricity Man

    Why dont they start by asking why the controller involved was working a midnight shift alone after working 4 consecutive overtime shifts.Is this happening because budget cuts have slashed manpower below a permissible limit and the remaining employees have to work overtime shifts to cover vacancies ?.Have they ever read any studies about the effects of rotating shift work ? Mark Kirk was quick to get on the news and call for the firing of that controller that just worked 4 consecutive overtime shifts.This type of operation is going on all over the country and not only in air traffic control. So who is in charge here that allowed this type of accident waiting to happen to become a standard operating procedure and who is putting operating cost before the safety of the public? What politicians are doing this ? I wonder if Mark Kirk has any ideas ?

    • MR. Electricity Man

      SORRY..replied to the wrong article

  • Long-term view

    Oversight of the nuclear facilities in the United States by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission is like the fox overseeing the chicken coop. Of course they are going to say that “no changes are needed.” Congressional watchdogging is an important responsibility that has been largely ignored by our representatives.

    Update or close old facilities. Build a new reprocessing plant – the last one closed in 1972. Don’t store spend rods on top of reactors. Move reactors away from fault lines or hurricane tidal zones. Get it right congress! Take an interest in the 10s of millions located with 50 miles of our nuclear reactors.

  • limod

    Leave politics out of this. Politics got involved with the air traffic controllers, remember PATCO?, and you see where that got us. Let the NRC, the experts, do their job and not have their job done my grandstanding, headline grabbing, I’m gonna keep you safe, politicians!


    …as lair kirk claimed to have the medal of honor….turbin durbin will do anything to stay on the news…he needs to take Sen. craigs place in that mens room……to goofies together just waiting for thier masters in saudia to call the shot for them…

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