Rep. Barton Reaffirms Commitment to Nuclear Power

By Lindsay Wilcox
|  Wednesday, Mar 23, 2011  |  Updated 7:29 PM CDT
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After the devastation in <a title=Japan, Rep. Joe Barton gets up to speed on safety at the nuclear power plant in Glen Rose." />

Lindsay Wilcox, NBCDFW.com

After the devastation in Japan, Rep. Joe Barton gets up to speed on safety at the nuclear power plant in Glen Rose.

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As he toured the Comanche Peak Nuclear Power Plant, North Texas Congressman Joe Barton could not have been clearer about his feeling regarding nuclear power.

"Nuclear power is very safe," says Barton.

On Wednesday, Barton and the chief nuclear officer at Comanche Peak pointed out the differences between the reactors in Glen Rose and the rubble that remains in Japan.
 
"The systems in Japan relied on interaction, human interaction," says Barton.

"Our new safety systems are passive in the sense that if the worst case happens, they don't require human intervention," says Barton.

In Japan, diesel fuel for back-up generators was stored above ground where it was washed away by the tsunami. At Comanche Peak, it's buried underground, seemingly protected from natural disasters.
 
Another major difference is the construction of the containment buildings.  The exterior walls at Comanche Peak are four and a half feet thick, constructed with concrete and rebar.
The reactor vessel is lined with an eight inch wall of carbon steel.

Luminant has proposals to build two new reactors in Glen Rose over the next decade. In the aftermath of the Japanese crisis, some question the wisdom of four reactors in one location.
 
"I think the first few are being done at existing sites for expediency purposes," says Barton.

"In a perfect world, you probably don't want them clustered, and I think over time in the United States you'll see that," says Barton.

Barton sits on the House Energy and Commerce Committee which oversees much of the U.S. energy policies. Today, he said if the nuclear industry wants to expand it will have to prove it's financial viability when compared with natural gas.

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