It's not often you encounter bipartisanship around the Senate these days in an environment flush with tense arguments over spending, the debt, and deficits, but a rare moment revealed itself on, of all topics, nuclear power generation in the wake of the crisis in Japan. There are, of course, ardent opponents of this particular type of energy with fears heightened as explosions at Japanese nuclear plants emit radiation into the surrounding environment. But Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and his GOP counterpart, Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, both urged caution saying that now is not the time to rush any decision-making about U.S. nuclear energy policy.
"I think we ought not to make American...domestic energy policy in the wake of a catastrophic event," McConnell told reporters, adding, "I just don't think we ought to, in the wake of a crisis, be making long-term decisions about America's energy efficiency."
Echoing that sentiment, though he did say hearings are likely, Reid said, "I believe we have to have a time-out here with the situation in Japan. I don't think there should be a mad rush to say nuclear power generation is bad. I think we need a time out to take a look at it and let's have the experts tell us some things that could have been done better."
The rare agreement between the leaders stood in stark contrast to the clashes that occured immediately following the B.P. oil spill into the Gulf of Mexico. There were immediate calls from a majority of Democrats to ban offshore, deepwater drilling.
Oklahoma Sen. James Inhofe, top Republican on the Environment and Public Works Committee, said emphatically that Americans have already waited long enough for nuclear power, a type of energy development that has been thwarted over the years.
"There's been a pause for 15 years now. I think it's time to continue on," Inhofe urged, "I think most people, the majority here, agree we're going to have to have nuclear power...Right now we have some applications going - I think 32 in process. I think we should continue with those, along with the newest reactor."
And though Reid said Congress should examine the industry, he quickly added, "I think the main issue is, let's just not be rambunctious. Let's take our time."