WASHINGTON Two senators on Thursday asked the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to review the capacity of the nation's nuclear plants to withstand disasters in the wake of the Japan nuclear crisis.
Barbara Boxer, the Democratic chairwoman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, and Tom Carper, also a Democrat, asked for the review in a letter to the chairman of the NRC, Gregory Jaczko.
"These domestic nuclear reactors must be fully evaluated to ensure that they are as safe and resilient as possible ... and that personnel training and equipment for emergency responses are in place and up-to-date," the senators wrote in the letter.
They asked the NRC, an independent agency that regulates commercial nuclear power plants, to assess whether the plants could withstand both natural and man-made disasters.
A report released by the Union of Concerned Scientists on Thursday said spotty inspections of the nuclear power industry allowed plants to operate even when there were known problems in their safety systems.
Jaczko told reporters at the White House that nuclear reactors, including those in tremor-prone California, were designed to withstand major earthquakes and tsunamis, and said that the NRC monitored them closely.
But he added: "We are going to take a look at what happened, we are going to do a systematic and methodical review of the information and if we need to make changes to our program, we will make changes to our program."
The senators asked the NRC which domestic nuclear plants shared similar design features with Japan's Fukushima nuclear plant.
The United States on Wednesday urged its citizens in Japan to stay clear of the crippled plant, going further in its warnings than the Japanese government.
(Reporting by Timothy Gardner; Editing by Paul Simao)