Dem: Nuclear power is going to "meet its maker"

Democratic Rep. Edward Markey on Sunday reiterated his call for a moratorium on the construction of some new nuclear power plants in America, and argued "the nuclear industry as an electrical-generating part of our mix for the future" would likely "meet its maker" in light of the recent tragedy in Japan.

As Japan races to gain control over a number of damaged nuclear reactors in the wake of the earthquake and tsunami that devastated the nation nine days ago, some lawmakers have expressed concerns about the safety of American plants - and how they would fare in the face of a similar crisis.

But Markey, a Massachusetts Democrat and leading congressional voice on energy, argued on CBS' Face the Nation that it would be investors - not protesters - who would be raising the questions about the viability of using nuclear power in the United States going forward.

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"It's pretty clear that the nuclear industry as an electrical-generating part of our mix for the future is now going to meet its maker in the marketplace," Markey said, arguing that recent congressional support for expanded nuclear energy development was "ancient history already" in wake of Japan's crisis.

"It won't be protesters," he said. "It will be Wall Street investors that are going to be raising real questions about its viability going forward."

Markey also said he thought reports coming out of Japan regarding the situation appeared to be increasingly transparent, but he added that "you can never have 100 percent confidence."

"I think the transparency has been increasing," he told CBS' Bob Schieffer. "I think that there is increasing cooperation between the Department of Energy and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission - in our country and what is going on in Japan."

But, Markey added, "you can never have 100 percent confidence - especially where there is an electric utility involved, because they're always trying to look at their own long-term financial well being. We saw that in the United States at Three Mile Island but I think right now there is a level of cooperation that is helping to reduce the likelihood that the problem is going to get worse."

Markey emphasized his doubt that the U.S. atmosphere had been significantly affected by Japan's nuclear crisis, however.

"I think right now we're still at safe levels," he said.

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He did say that he had urged the U.S. government to closely monitor any food products that might be affected by the situation.

"I've called upon the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) to begin monitoring of food coming in from Japan, and for fish that is caught in Pacific waters near Japan, because we should now have some knowledge about what is happening," he said. "Obviously in spinach and in milk, some miles away from that plant, they're now picking up radiation in those food products so we should act with some caution here as well."

Markey also reiterated his call for a moratorium on nuclear power plants in regions prone to natural disaster.

"I've called for a moratorium on the siting of new nuclear power plants on earthquake-prone areas of our country," he told Schieffer. "And that is because we should just be humble in the face of Mother Nature. We should understand that it's very difficult for us to guarantee that a catastrophic meltdown cannot happen in our country. And we should ensure that we act cautiously given the Japanese meltdown - and given their kind of technological equivalency with United States in terms of our ability and their ability to deal with what Mother Nature might present to either of our countries as a challenge."

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