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BOISE -- The radiation leak from a nuclear power plant in Japan is causing a global reaction among countries that have nuclear plants of their own.

In response to the Japanese crisis, the European Union plans to test all of its 143 plants in a mock emergency situation. And Switzerland ordered a freeze on construction of new plants while Turkey and Sweden are reducing nuclear projects.

The United States has not announced any changes to plants on its soil, but that hasn't stopped experts from weighing in on what the impact might be.

According to a nuclear engineering professor at the University of Idaho, the crisis in Japan may lead to a delay in construction of nuclear plants in the United States.

That could result in the United States facing higher energy prices and a shortage of electricity in about a decade.

University of Idaho nuclear engineering professor Akira Tokuhiro says, because of the risks, nuclear plants are heavily regulated.

And after Japan, they could be even more so.

When things like this happen there is usually some kind of change that happens in society, said Tokuhiro.

He believes countries around the globe will take a time out on the construction of new nuclear plants to assess what additional safety measures could be added.

Even if you find one new safety feature that's going to be required for all the existing plants or some contingency plan to mitigate something like this happening, then you add to the cost of the existing plant or additional in the building of new plants, he said.

He says those costs could be passed on to the energy customer he says.

Utility companies would still seek a profit, which might lead to increased energy rates.

The delay in construction of new plants could also lead to a shortage of energy altogether.

Tokuhiro explains nuclear plants take about 7 years to construct.

If plants that are planned for construction now get delayed by a couple years, they won't be ready until 2020.

If energy usage doesn't change, meeting demand might be a challenge without the supply.

Tokuhiro says the U.S. needs to expand its energy portfolio to include more alternative energy like solar and wind.

Until then, he says, Americans need to be smart about their electricity usage and start with little things like turning down the thermostat or switching off lights when you leave a room.

We usually take it for granted because we don't really concern ourselves with it. We plug in an electrical device and electricity is immediately available, said Tokuhiro. Be respectful for the energy sources that we have.

Tuesday, President Barack Obama defended nuclear power as a source of energy, although acknowledged no source is foolproof.

He added nuclear facilities in our nation are monitored closely and will not be affected by certain levels of earthquakes.

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