Republicans Tell NRC to Weigh Benefits in Fukushima Steps

House Republicans said the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission should consider the additional costs of measures ordered in response to the reactor disaster in Japan two years ago.

“Safety gains should be significant enough to outweigh additional costs” to be paid by industry, Representative John Shimkus of Illinois, chairman of an Energy and Commerce subcommittee, said today at a hearing in Washington with the five NRC commissioners.

The NRC is voting on a staff proposal to require radiation-screening filters on vents at 31 of the oldest U.S. reactors, which Exelon Corp. of Chicago has said would cost $15 million to $20 million at each unit. The agency is seeking to improve U.S. safety after a triple meltdown at Japan’s Fukushima Dai-Ichi plant in March 2011.

Environmental groups have said the recommendation for filters is necessary and overdue, while the Nuclear Energy Institute, a Washington-based industry group, has said upgrades should be considered on a plant-specific basis.

Representative Ed Whitfield, a Kentucky Republican, joined Shimkus in saying any additional costs on reactors should be justified by safety benefits. Democrats including Representatives Paul Tonko of New York and Henry Waxman of California said the NRC should adopt its staff’s recommendation to require the filters.

“To the public, there is no such thing as a small nuclear accident,” said Tonko, the top Democrat on the panel.

NRC Chairman Allison Macfarlane declined to comment on the commission’s voting because it was still in progress.

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