Wednesday, March 16, 2011

The World Needs Nuclear Power

This week's dangerous situation with Japan's nuclear reactors is: a) an "act of god" (the earthquake god, in this case) and b) has nothing to do with nuclear power, per se.  It has everything to do with water pumps and the failure of their back-up power sources - fairly mundane technology which has already been addressed in the plans of nuclear power plants waiting to be built.  Over the past 40 years there have been something like 14,000 reactor-years of safe, clean energy production by nuclear facilities worldwide - a record unmatched by any other power-generating technology - with only 3 major incidents (Three-Mile Island, Chernobyl and now Fukushima-Daiichi).  France, which generates 75-80% of its electricity from nuclear plants, has never had a nuclear incident - and, by the way, is energy self-sufficient.  Just as nuclear power plant design changed after 9/11 (reactors are now built to withstand the crash of an airliner), the vulnerability of cooling systems dependent upon power generated on-site was recognized long ago and has been corrected in newer designs.  Over-reaction by those with vested interests (or sub-par intelligence) against the world's only realistic technology for clean power generation is a sad, but telling, commentary on the level of scientific education in North America.  After all, the technologically-advanced Japanese have embraced nuclear energy to the tune of 54 reactors, and they know more than anybody about the dangers of nuclear radiation.