Fukushima Leak Erodes Confidence in Nuclear Power
By David J. Unger
Discharges of contaminated water have plagued the cleanup of the March 2011 disaster at Fukushima, whose cooling systems failed in the wake of an earthquake and tsunami, triggering meltdowns at three reactors. Japan’s nuclear watchdog upgraded Wednesday the severity of those leaks.
What happened at Fukushima is a rare occurrence, many in the industry stress, and nuclear remains one of the safest and most reliable ways to generate electricity. Still, the political fallout from Fukushima – and the fumbling recovery in its wake – has delivered another blow to a nuclear industry that a few years ago seemed to have finally shaken the stigma of the Three Mile Island disaster.
Factor in the competition of cheap, abundant natural gas, and the outlook for nuclear isn’t so rosy. But a wave of technological innovation offers hope for a fuel that provides about 12 percent of the world’s electricity.
“The [Fukushima] remediation work (and the daily news drip) has likely had a negative impact on nuclear perception in the US, but much less than the accident itself,” Edward Kee, vice president of NERA Economic Consulting, wrote in an e-mail. ”The nuclear industry is good at understanding all accidents and incidents (even minor things that do not make the news) and learning from them to prevent similar things from happening in the future.”
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