Our Opinion: Nuclear power safety issues regenerated

In the aftermath of natural disasters that have damaged nuclear power plants in Japan, justifiable safety concerns have been raised.

Missouri lawmakers this session have been debating a proposal to finance a site permit for a possible second reactor at the Callaway Nuclear Plant at Reform.

Energy industry experts and officials, legislators and customers have focused attention on Japan, where major earthquakes followed by a tsunami damaged four nuclear plants. Authorities now are attempting to control the release of radiation and prevent possible meltdowns.

Our response begins with a disclaimer — we are not nuclear power experts.

Neither are state lawmakers.

State Sen. Jason Crowell, R-Cape Girardeau, elaborated by pointing out safety considerations are beyond the scope of legislators’ expertise. “We (lawmakers) are not on the issue of whether or not we should build the new nuclear reactor at Callaway ... I think the (U.S.) Department of Energy is going to answer those questions for us.”

With regard to safety considerations, the operator of the Callaway Nuclear Plant, Ameren, must answer to the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC).

Characterizing NRC regulations as strict is an understatement.

And the Callaway plant has maintained a stellar safety record.

The critical question, however, centers on whether the Callaway plant could withstand a natural catastrophe of the magnitude experienced in Japan.

Ameren officials offer assurances the plant will withstand a quake rated on the Richter scale up to 9.0 — the magnitude of the quake in Japan.

Because of the dangers associated with radiation exposure, the safety of nuclear power plants must remain a top priority.

But based on our experiences in Central Missouri and what we have learned from experts about industry regulations, back-up systems and security, we believe the Callaway Nuclear Plant is safe.

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