Here is a good article in the Atlantic on DC’s reaction so far to the Japanese crisis and the larger issues around nuclear power support. They begin with the current state of things in the capitol:
When something big happens, Washington tends to react impulsively. Whether or not it’s helpful or appropriate, some cosmic force seems to impel congressmen before the cameras, and before you know it, they’re demanding hearings, bills, new commissions — in a word, action. The disaster unfolding at Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant has riveted everybody here, as it has around the world. But so far, the response has been measured and cautious…. On the contrary, most lawmakers and administration officials have hastened to emphasize that their views about nuclear power are still the opposite of those held by the likes of Greenpeace, even in the wake of the Japanese catastrophe.
Testifying before a House subcommittee on Tuesday, Energy Secretary Steven Chu lauded the ”rigorous safety regulations” that he said governed the US nuclear industry and then made it clear that nuclear energy must remain an important component of the White House energy policy.”
He has a theory as to why this is. The article theorizes that nuclear energy has been in the process of becoming more of a non-partisan, non-”wedge issue.” That from a larger policy standpoint the two parties seem to find something approaching common ground here:
But beyond political factors lie common policy interests. One reason more Democrats haven’t responded critically is that many now view nuclear power in the broader context of climate change. With the planet overheating from carbon pollution, nuclear energy has come to appear part of the necessary solution to a global disaster, rather than a potential source of a regional disaster, like Japan’s. Republicans push nuclear power as at least a partial substitute for their lack of a comprehensive energy plan. And so, nuclear energy has appeared to be the rare issue on which both parties might agree.