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April 18, 2011

Rep. Keenan talks about nuclear power, Salem coal plant

SALEM — Salem Rep. John Keenan is the new chairman for the Joint Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities and Energy, a job that has taken on greater significance with the nuclear disaster in Japan.

The Salem Democrat shared his thoughts this week on nuclear power in Massachusetts.

Your committee is probably getting a lot more work right now after the incident in Japan.

Absolutely. I have to say, I was named chairman of this committee a few weeks before this incident happened. I would imagine, much like the legislators in our committee here in Massachusetts, many of the legislators in the 31 states that have nuclear reactors have probably responded thoroughly, in that they wanted to hold hearings and make sure communities prepare in the event that we have some sort of disaster, natural or other, that causes a problem.

This was not an issue that I felt was going to be a first issue to have for my committee, but it just so happens that was the case.

How safe should state residents feel with three nuclear power plants within or just outside our borders?

I think that was part of our goal for having the hearing last week at the Statehouse — to bring in the two companies, Entergy, who owns both Pilgrim and Yankee Vermont, and then NextEra, which owns Seabrook. ...

I was certainly comfortable with their responses and their talking about their preparedness for any sort of natural disaster or sabotage or those sorts of things, and talking about their backup systems. ...

So I just hope we did reveal that Massachusetts and Massachusetts Emergency Management (MEMA) is prepared in the event something like that does happen, but we also asked some important questions about how the communities communicate with each other.

I think overall the citizens can feel safe. Nuclear power plays a very important role in the region. I think it accounts for almost 30 percent of the baseload here in the New England ISO (independent system operator) region.

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