A nuclear power plant disaster in Japan could disrupt plans to push ahead toward a second commercial nuclear power plant in Missouri, but supporters of nuclear power in Missouri insist that shouldn’t have an impact on discussions here.

Callaway County Representative Jeanie Riddle (R-Mokane) sympathizes with those in Japan shaken by the earthquake and tsunami.

“Obviously, our hearts and prayers go out to those folks in Japan who have lost family members, loved ones, their businesses, their homes, everything about their life,” Riddle told reporters. “But, if we look at what we must do to take care of Missouri’s energy future, our security and our economic future, we need to move ahead.”

A fire broke out at a nuclear power plant near Tokyo after the tsunami swamped the facility, emitting radiation into the atmosphere. The Washington Post reports another fire broke out Wednesday at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear complex as workers at Tokyo Electric Power worked to stabilize the reactor. The government ordered 140,000 people living within 20 miles of the plant to seal themselves indoors to avoid radiation exposure. Commercial air traffic has been banned over the area.

House Speaker Steven Tilley, a Republican from Perryville, says he expects the Japanese catastrophe to enter the debate on moving toward a second nuclear plant in Callaway County.

“Oh yeah, I’ve already kind of got a sense from people who have talked to me that they want to say, ‘Well, you know now that this deal with Japan happened, we don’t really know…’” Tilley says. “That should have no bearing about what’s done in Missouri.”

Both the House and the Senate have held marathon committee meetings, seeking public testimony about taking the first step toward a second commercial nuclear power plant in Missouri. Ameren Missouri, which operates the nuclear power plant in Callaway County, leads a coalition of utilities asking for permission to pass as much as $45 million dollars in cost onto consumers as it seeks an early site permit for a second plant. That would merely be an initial move toward another nuclear plant, which could take more than a decade to become reality.

Tilley reasons that the focus of opponents has been on how an early site permit should be funded.

“I didn’t hear anybody come in and was concerned about the earthquakes or anything like that,” according to Tilley. “Then to pivot and try to bring this into the argument I think is dishonest.”

While most of the opposition has focused on consumer protection, some testifying at the committee members questioned the safety of nuclear power and urged lawmakers to seek other forms of alternative energy.

AUDIO: Brent Martin reports [1:15 MP3]