US lawmakers mull nuclear moratorium after quake

"I've been a big supporter of nuclear power because it's domestic -- it's ours and it's clean," influential Senator Joseph Lieberman told the CBS News television program "Face The Nation" Sunday.

Nevertheless "I think we've got to ... quietly and quickly put the brakes on until we can absorb what has happened in Japan as a result of the earthquake and the tsunami," said Lieberman, who is chairman of the Senate Homeland Security Committee.
Experts must then "see what more, if anything, we can demand of the new power plants that are coming online."

President Barack Obama wants to increase nuclear power as part of a US effort to decrease the nation's dependence on coal and foreign oil. The administration has allocated $18.5 bn in Department of Energy loans guarantees to spur nuclear development.

The Obama administration "is committed to the re-launching of the nuclear power industry as a key part of moving the country to a clean energy economy," a US official told AFP in December.

"This is a critical part of reducing greenhouse gas emissions and creating jobs in growing sectors of the economy," the official said.

However Friday's devastating 8.9 earthquake and subsequent tsunami, which sparked an emergency at two of Japan's nuclear power plants and could result on catastrophic meltdowns, has many US nuclear energy advocates thinking twice.

In the first incident, part of a reactor at Japan's aging Fukushima No 1 atomic plant blew up Saturday, a day after the biggest quake ever recorded in Japan unleashed a 10-meter tsunami.

Excessive radiation levels were recorded at a second Japanese nuclear facility, Onagawa, today, although authorities insisted the facility's three reactor units were "under control."

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