Sanders Challenges NRC Head On Tritium

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(Host) Two dozen nuclear power plants around the country have leaked radioactive tritium into groundwater. And now, a destroyed oil well is leaking oil into the waters of the Gulf of Mexico.

As VPR’s Ross Sneyd reports, Senator Bernie Sanders says it’s enough to demand new thinking on national energy policy.

(Sneyd) Senator Sanders is no fan of two energy proposals by President Obama.

The administration wants to encourage new nuclear power plants. And the president has proposed new offshore drilling for oil.

Sanders says there’s no room for error with either.

(Sanders) "Technology as risky as offshore drilling or nuclear cannot be 99.9 percent safe. That’s not good enough. And I think there are other ways to address our energy needs."

(Sneyd) Sanders says the nation could follow Vermont’s example and reduce the amount of power it consumes.

Sanders talked about energy when the Nuclear Regulatory Commission appeared before a committee he serves on.

Sanders used it as an opportunity to question NRC Chairman Gregory Jaczko about how the federal government has reacted to the radioactive tritium leak at Vermont Yankee and other nuclear plants.

(Jaczko) "To identify and address the issue."

(Sanders) My question is: 27 plants are leaking tritium. Have any of these plants been fined? A nickel? A dollar? A hundred dollars?"

(Jaczko) "I’m not aware of any fines that we’ve issued."

(Sanders) "Thank you."

(Sneyd) Sanders’ point was clear. He thinks the federal government has done a poor job of overseeing nuclear power. Either to stop leaks from aging plants. Or to develop a national repository for spent nuclear fuel from existing or new plants.

For VPR News, I’m Ross Sneyd.

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