US energy chief gives cautious backing to nuclear
* Chu says U.S. must learn lessons from Japan
* Calls for diverse energy supply including nuclear power
By Jeff Mason and Tom Doggett
WASHINGTON, March 15 (Reuters) - U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu offered a cautious defense of nuclear power on Tuesday in the face of a potential disaster in Japan and reassured Americans that U.S. domestic power plants were safe.
The Obama administration has maintained its support for expanding U.S. use of nuclear energy despite renewed fears about its safety after an earthquake-crippled nuclear plant in Japan exploded and sent low levels of radiation toward Tokyo. [ID:nLDE72D2FT]
Chu, President Barack Obama's top energy official, told a congressional committee that the United States needed a diverse mix of energy sources including nuclear.
Asked about the prospects for a "brake" on nuclear expansion in the face of events in Japan, Chu declined to offer a robust backing for the industry, emphasizing instead that lessons could be learned from the tragedy unfolding there.
"We have to take a hard look: were there any lessons learned from this tragedy that can further improve the safety ... of our existing reactors?" he said.
"It's probably premature to say anything except we will learn from this." Continued...