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Japan's Nuclear Crisis Raises Concerns In North Texas

GLEN ROSE (CBSDFW.COM)The Comanche Peak nuclear power plant pushed back the date to bring two new reactors online, however officials say the decision is not related to the nuclear emergency in Japan.

The reactors were scheduled to fire up beginning in 2018. It's been delayed to 2021. On its website, Comanche Peak says the delay is because of an extended Nuclear Regulatory Commission review schedule and further guarantee of government energy funding.

Karen Uloth said she's always had concerns living a mile from the nuclear plant.

"I really don't honestly they should be building two more reactors," she said. "I think that's kind of crazy."

Dallas-based Luminant says the delay at Comanche Peak has "absolutely nothing to do" with the crisis in Japan, though nearby residents remain concerned.

Mike Ford, Somervell County's emergency management director, said comparing Comanche Peak to the Fukushima plant in Japan is like comparing apples to oranges.

There, workers are embroiled in a desperate attempt to cool reactors before their fuel rods explode after a devastating earthquake and tsunami pounded the country.

"The buildings that they're contained in are entirely different. The explosions that you've seen over and over again are basically metal buildings over the top to keep the weather out," Ford said. "They're not pressurized containers like you see out here at Comanche Peak."

Ford said the Japanese plant uses a water boiling system, while Comanche peak has a steam-pressurized system. On Tuesday, Japanese workers were evacuated from the plant because of harmful radiation.

While the Japanese government continues to scramble to prevent a full meltdown, critics of nuclear power call it a warning sign.

But Dr. Rasool Kenarangui, who studies nuclear power at The University of Texas at Arlington, said this is no time to overreact.

"There has not been any major release in Japan yet. We have lessons learned from Chernobyl and from Three Mile Island and I'm sure there will be lots to learn from Japan as well," he said.

Dr. Kenarangui said that 20 percent of the electricity generated in the United States comes from nuclear and abandoning those plants now would be premature.

Nuclear plants in Texas produce roughly six percent of the state's electricity.

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