How Will Japan's Nuclear Reactor Explosions Affect Nuclear Energy Production? [Poll]

With more than 180,000 evacuated and up to 160 people affected by radiation after two nuclear reactor incidents, it's no wonder that Japan's crisis has sent shock waves throughout the world with respect to the safety of nuclear energy plants. German Chancellor Angela Merkel took quick action, shutting down seven nuclear plants built before 1980 for a three-month comprehensive review. What about the U.S.? Could what's happening in Japan now also happen here? According to NBC News, there are 104 nuclear power plants in the U.S. that provide 20% of our electricity.

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U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu Speaks about Japan's Nuclear Incidents:

Because nuclear power plants do not emit carbon dioxide, sulfur dioxide, or nitrogen oxides, nuclear energy is widely considered a clean energy, but that may not be enough to secure its future, given safety concerns.

Given recent incidents, will nuclear energy reach its fullest potential?

Tell us what you think by taking our poll and commenting below.

photo via Curtis Gregory Perry and Creative Commons


Martin Bergstedt's picture

This industry has ever been at the mercy of public opinion, and this will be a huge and debilitating setback. Look for viewership of "The China Syndrome" to spike.

Robert S's picture

While it may be difficult to tell until much later after this tragedy, but it seems to be a little over cautious to be scrambling all the nuclear power plants because of one that is distressed (the full implications of this word seem to change hourly) after being hit with one of (if not THE) strongest earthquakes in recorded history, plus a major aftershock, plus a meters high wave of water. I hope that future discussions regarding nuclear power are aided by these events (that stronger and/or more effective safety measures are implemented) and not shut down for the fear of these events. All sources of energy have inherent dangers - they are powerful technologies. They should be evaluated on the facts and not the fears.

ehorahan's picture

John - Thanks for posting this, this is extremely relevant. Martin and Robert - I agree with you. I think that much of public opinion will be formed based on the spin the media chooses to place on the events at hand. Hopefully it won't be completely reduced to the dystopian "Lies are News and Truth is Obsolete".

Every day this story seems to be deepening. It's such a sad disaster but it is important to keep into perspective that these events are extremely rare, although the do serve as an excellent wake up call to make sure safety standards are beyond up to snuff.

ehorahan's picture

Speaking of extremely rare... perhaps not so much anymore: <a href="" rel="nofollow"></a> Yes the events are rare, but perhaps a failure to prepare adequately for the &quot;rare&quot; allows for far more destruction. A false sense of &quot;it can&#039;t happen to me/us&quot;. Very interesting article if you get the chance to read it.

Rich Byrnes's picture

In Process Hazards Analysis Risk Assessment this type of event is called a &quot;Black Swan&quot;, once thought not to exist. These events have very high consequences yet very low probability of happening.&nbsp; They are the most difficult to deal with since usually finding effective mitigations or safeguards becomes &quot;near impossible&quot;.&nbsp; A classic example would be &quot;what if&quot; a meteor struck your chemical plant?&nbsp; For sure a huge disaster, however very unlikely.&nbsp; We call this a &ldquo;not a credible event&quot; and simply move on to the next question, however how would one even attempt to mitigate such an event? The Japanese folks have shown tremendous courage in the face of this disaster, and are doing an admirable job under extremely unforgiving conditions. Nuclear Power is an important portion of the energy portfolio for mankind, let&rsquo;s hope we use this experience as an opportunity to become even better, I&rsquo;m not sure we could ever really &ldquo;pull the plug&rdquo; on this vital resource.

Thanks Rich. I agree with you. There is so much focus on this radiation right now. Not to make light of it, because it is a problem, but the amount of good nuclear energy brings to &#039;powering&#039; people&#039;s lives is not at all focused on. It&#039;s just the sensational threat of how this might affect people if it happened in the U.S. I hope that this can be resolved without people becoming severely contaminated and we can move on from there.

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