Questions raised over U.S. Midwest nuclear power plants; regulators maintain they're safe

14:19, March 16, 2011      

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by Ted Regencia

Chicago is more than 6,000 miles from Tokyo, but as news of a possible nuclear meltdown in Japan continue to dominate the headlines, the inevitable questions about safety of Illinois and other Midwest nuclear power plants, are being raised.

A spokesman of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) told Xinhua "that the plants in Illinois, in other states, and the rest of the country are safe."

This developed as the watchdog group Nuclear Energy Information Service (NEIS), accused the power company Exelon of "hiding their dirty laundry," when it comes to its record of safety violations in Illinois.

"The plants in the U.S. have stringent design requirements to begin with," Viktoria Mitlyng told Xinhua. "Each nuclear power plant has to be able to withstand natural disasters such as earthquakes, tornadoes, floods to the highest level that is historically known in that area, plus a certain margin."

In the case of Illinois, the strongest earthquake ever recorded, according to the Chicago Tribune, happened 200 years ago at the New Madrid Seismic Zone between the states of Illinois and Missouri.

There are 25 reactors in the Midwest, 11 of them in Illinois and situated in six nuclear power plants, according to Mitlyng. Two regulators are assigned in each of plant serving as agency's "eyes and ears" making sure that plant operators "are adhering to the regulations."

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