Will Japanese Disaster Derail Future Nuclear Plants?
by Scott Cox
posted Mar 15 2011 12:00AM
Like any rational person, my heart goes out to the suffering people of Japan. The horrors that we've all seen unfold there are unprecedented in many of our lifetimes. The losses of life and property are unimaginable. Coupled with the earthquake/tsunami damage is the very real danger of radiation leaking into Japan's atmosphere. The Japanese people have been warned to stay a minimum of 19 miles from the damaged plants, and that perimeter will likely grow. It took a disaster of epic proportions to wreck those power plants. It took the biggest earthquake in the nation's history, a 9.0, to knock them offline, and the ensuing tsunami to flood out the backup generators that pumped the water to cool the core. So everything that had to go wrong did. So, will this tragedy have the same effect on nuclear power that the BP spill had on offshore drilling? Oh yes, only much more so. There are currently 104 reactors online in the USA right now, in 31 states. And don't think they're not being scrutinized like never before. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission is being besieged with requests from lawmakers from most of those states. Everyone is hard at work calculating worst-case scenarios, trying to reassure Americans that our plants are safe. More importantly, what will be the fate of the 5 nuclear plants that are scheduled to be built in the next 10 years? Will the tragedy in Japan put those projects on hold? In the short term, absolutely, but will this current panic get them scrubbed altogether? As usual, the answer will be found in politics. Great. That should pump us all full of confidence in our country's energy future. In every state where nuclear plants are already, or are planned, there are Democrats, funded and supported by the no-nukes crowd. They are the ones currently demanding that nuclear power be brought to an abrupt halt. They have willing accomplices in the media to help spread the fear and loathing. And you can't blame folks for not wanting to be radioactive. On the other side, we have the Republicans, funded and supported by the go-nukes crowd. In nearly every state with a nuke plant, you'll find a GOP'er who took campaign cash from the companies that built the plant. So they are doing their level best to chill everybody out, lest the masses descend on their neighborhood power plant demanding action. And these guys also have plenty of media representation to sling their propoganda. So what do regular people do while all this plays out? I'm on the "chill" team. We have 3 reactors here in California that are considered "at risk" in the event of an earthquake of over 7.5. And if you look at the geography involved, a seismic event of that size wouldn't leave many people in the affected area alive anyway. I would imagine that in the event this happened, a leaking core would be amongst the least of our troubles. This is a scary way to look at the problem, but i'm not losing any sleep over nuclear safety either way. At any rate, the smartest people in the world will be examing and re-examing all these plants, current and future, for the next several years. If there are additional safety measures to be taken, I believe that we'll take tham. Safety is good. Panic is not. Let's do all we can to assist the Japanese in their time of need, and let the pocket-protector crowd handle our safety concerns moving forward. Which we will. Eventually.