In response to the ongoing nuclear disaster at the Fukushima Daiichi plant in Japan, several governments have either announced limitations to their nuclear energy programs or have made gestures toward greater regulation. Germany will scale back the number of plants in operation, Italy has put in place a one-year moratorium delaying plans to restart nuclear production, and Russia, France, and Spain have called for new international regulations on the industry and “stress tests” for existing plants. In most cases these measures are symbolic, aiming to ease popular concern over the possibility of similar catastrophes and shore up the credibility of the nuclear power industry.
Yet the Obama administration, virtually alone among governments of the nuclear-energy producing states, has gone out of its way to insist that no changes will be made outside of vague calls to “learn from” the crisis in Japan.
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has insisted there is no need for new regulation or oversight, and there will be no moratorium on either the continuation of old plants or the construction of new ones. It has even granted a 20-year extension to a problem-riddled nuclear Vermont Yankee plant, whose reactor is a replica to that of the Fukushima Daiichi plant.