Energy Secretary Steven Chu said the U.S. doesn’t need to suspend work on new nuclear permits while investigating the crisis in Japani.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission review is long enough that revisions can be made to reflect findings from the failures at Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Daiichi nuclear station, the Bloomberg news agency quoted him as saying.

“If you look at the process in which the NRC approves going forward with construction projects and nuclear reactors, it’s a thoughtful process,” Chu told reporters after appearing before the House Appropriations subcommittee on energy and water development. “It’s a multiyear process and because of its very nature, I think these things can proceed.”

Lawmakers set aside plans Masrch 15 to review the Energy Department’s 2012 budget and focused on how U.S. nuclear reactors withstand what Chu referred to as the “double-barrel whammy” that crippled reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi plant.

“We need to take a hard look at any lessons learned from this tragedy that can further improve the safety of our reactors,” Chu said during the hearing.

White House press secretary Jay Carney was quoted by Bloomberg as saying the NRC is constantly reviewing safety at currently operating plants and has the authority to order a shutdown of any facility that doesn’t meet standards or to upgrade safety procedures.

Nuclear power was defended by members of the energy and water development subcommittee, including Representative Rodney Frelinghuysen, a New Jersey Republican and chairman of the panel.

Chu reiterated the administration’s support for nuclear power and said new reactor designs similar to Southern Co.’s Vogtle unit are safer because they rely less on electric power to pump cooling water to prevent overheating.

The planned Vogtle plant received $8.3 billion in loan guarantees from the Energy Department and would use the AP 1000 reactor design by Toshiba Corp.’s Westinghouse Electric Co.

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