Sen. Alexander says Japan tragedy should not force retreat from nuclear power

Alexander added the nuclear power is a component of modern life that poses risks to be managed. "The 1.6 million of us who fly daily would not stop flying after a tragic airplane crash," he said, noting similar dangers associated with highway travel and energy exploration. "In all these cases we do our best to examine the tragedies and make our continued operation as safe as possible."

Alexander, who has supported the building of 100 new nuclear plants in the U.S. in the next 20 years, noted that the U.S. has a good history of managing nuclear power safely. He said that even as Americans were reminded over the weekend of the Three Mile Island accident, they should also be reminded that no one was hurt in that accident.

"As I said before, there has never been a death resulting from a commercial nuclear accident in American history," he said. "What happened at Three Mile Island was basically an operator error."

Alexander argued that nuclear technology has evolved further from the late 1970s, when the U.S. stopped building nuclear plants. This evidence was found in the Japanese reactors damaged by the earthquake and tsunami. Alexander said the release of radioactive vapor in Japan was controlled, and that Japan has halted further damage by dumping seawater into the reactors in order to cool their cores.

"Despite one of the largest earthquakes in world history, with accompanying tsunamis, fires and aftershocks—multiple disasters compounded one on top of the other—the primary containments at reactors near the epicenter appear not to have been breached and the radioactive release has been minimal and controlled," he said.

Alexander's call matches that of the Obama administration, which said Monday that it will not back away from nuclear energy.