Gibson still supports nuclear power plant
Despite situation in Japan, congressman wants plant in district
By LEIGH HORNBECK Staff writer, Times Union
Published 12:00 a.m., Tuesday, March 15, 2011
U.S. Rep. Chris Gibson said Monday he would still support construction of a nuclear power plant in his district despite the nuclear disaster under way in Japan.
"It's vitally important going forward that this be done safely," said Gibson, R-Kinderhook, who earlier this year proposed building a nuclear reactor in the 20th Congressional District.
He said he stood by his support for nuclear power despite the reported partial meltdowns of nuclear reactors after a powerful earthquake and subsequent tsunami in Japan.
"We're not looking at building your father's nuclear power plant. I want this done and I want it done safely," he said.
Gibson, 45, promoted nuclear energy during his campaign and recently announced he was forming an Energy Advisory Council with the mission of reducing the nation's use of foreign oil.
The supervisor of Easton in Washington County said he planned to name a five-person committee charged with studying nuclear power, possibly for a future plant in the town.
The congressman said there is still more to learn about the developing situation, but it is clear the nuclear power plant at the Fukushima Daiichi withstood the magnitude-9 earthquake. Backup generators turned on when the electricity failed. But the tsunami that followed the earthquake swamped the backup system and led to a near-meltdown situation.
Gibson shrugged off concerns voters would be repulsed by the idea of a nuclear power plant in light of the stories coming out of Japan, and said it is important for now to "focus in on what's happening on the ground and collect the facts."
Sen. Chuck Schumer, a Democrat, said this weekend that nuclear power remains an alternative to reliance on fossil fuel. President Barack Obama backs nuclear energy.
"Soaring prices and a fragile recovery remind us we must free ourselves from dependence on foreign oil from places like Libya," Schumer spokesman Matt House said. "Senator Schumer believes that means developing alternatives like wind, solar and, if it is done safely and carefully, nuclear power."
Ground has not been broken on a new nuclear power in the U.S. in more than 30 years, in large part because of public reaction to failures at the Three Mile Island nuclear plant in Pennsylvania in 1979 and the Chernobyl nuclear plant in the Soviet Union in 1986. During that time, nuclear energy has flourished in Europe and Japan.
Assemblyman Kevin Cahill, D-Kingston, chairman of the Assembly Energy Committee, said attitudes were shifting toward nuclear power, but that may stall.
"This could be this generation's Chernobyl," Cahill said.
Marion Trieste, a Saratoga Springs-based public outreach specialist who works to promote renewable sources of energy, said that rather than building nuclear plants it is better to promote safe, smart energy alternatives that don't come with long-term problems.
"Radioactive leaks are possible, and that's not even considering the radioactive waste," Trieste said.
Even without the looming problems in Japan, building a new nuclear power plant upstate isn't the fastest or most cost-effective way of creating a new energy source, said Gordon Boyd, a consultant who manages group energy buying programs.
Boyd said he is not for or against any one form of energy because, like Gibson, he believes our power should come from a mix of sources.
"Upstate New York is paying more for its energy than it should be, but there are ways to fix that could happen a lot sooner, for a lot less money than building nuclear," Boyd said.
Reach Hornbeck at 454-5352 or by e-mail at email@example.com
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