By Ben Geman - 03/16/11 02:23 PM EDT
Upton has said in recent months that he plans to push legislation aimed at speeding up the federal approval process for building new nuclear reactors.
He said Wednesday that the committee planned to carefully review the Japanese crisis. “We will be having a number of hearings on this issue as the details unfold,” Upton said, pledging to “hear the facts as soon as they become available.”
A number of Democrats — led by Rep. Edward Markey (Mass.) — say the reactor crisis in Japan has raised troubling questions about the safety of U.S. nuclear plants.
In a letter to Jaczko Monday, Reps. Markey and Lois Capps (D-Calif.) requested detailed information on seismic activity and the country's nuclear reactors.
"We are concerned that these reactors may not have the features necessary to withstand the sort of catastrophic earthquake and tsunami that has crippled several reactors in Japan, and caused a meltdown and the release of the highly radioactive materials within them," the lawmakers said in the letter.
Obama administration officials have said that U.S. safety standards are robust, but are also pledging to take another look in light of the crisis in Japan, where workers are desperately trying to prevent large-scale releases of dangerous radiation from overheating reactors at the stricken Fukushima Daiichi plant.
Chu said Energy Department and NRC officials plan to "look very hard and see how one could, if possible, upgrade the security" of U.S. reactors.
"We will be looking very carefully and gathering whatever lessons can be learned," Chu said.