World Watches Japan's Struggles with Damaged Nuclear Plants
The earthquake, tsunami and the damage caused to nuclear power plants in Japan makes everything else happening in the world look pretty insignificant. I can’t even imagine the grief, despair and fear that those people are feeling.
Although the tragedy interests anyone who has compassion for human life, it is of even more interest to people in the power industry, as what happens with those nuclear power plants will no doubt impact the future of nuclear power everywhere in the world. And especially in areas where companies are planning to expand current or build new facilities.
About a month ago, President Obama announced loan guarantees for nuclear power plants in the U.S. to encourage new construction. That announcement was immediately met with opposition by environmentalists demanding to know what is being done to safely dispose of nuclear waste material. Before debate on that topic could even begin anew, the situation in Japan might have made that a moot argument.
Obama has a tough road ahead if he’s going to try to stick to his argument that the U.S. nuclear industry is closely monitored and built to withstand earthquakes, especially in light of the disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. Before that disaster we were under the impression that the offshore drilling industry was also being closely monitored. We all understand that nothing is fail-safe, but as far as I’m concerned when the outcome is a potential nuclear meltdown and widespread radiation poisoning, fail-safe just isn’t an option. And I don’t think I’m the only one who is of this opinion.
The president will also have a hard time reassuring the American public as we watch the crisis in Japan play out on in the media. The photo of a baby being checked for radiation accompanying an Associated Press story about the president’s continued support for nuclear power probably won’t help him win any support. I saw the photo and article in The Seattle Times but I’m sure it ran in other newspapers across the country.
I do agree with the president when he says that we need to consider the full array of clean, renewable energy sources in our efforts to be energy independent and nuclear should be included. However, the nuclear power industry needs to be able to prove that their plants can withstand anything Mother Nature can dish out, and have solid plans to safely dispose of nuclear waste. It’s time to stop defending the safety of nuclear power and to start proving it.
And, if we have learned anything from the Japanese disaster, we shouldn’t build plants in places where there is a threat of earthquakes.