As Japan’s ongoing nuclear crisis shows, older reactors are the most vulnerable to failure. Aging nuclear plants pose a risk in the United States as well, and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission must enforce up-to-date safety standards more forcefully — or risk the possibility of a disaster.
VICTOR GILINSKY is a physicist and an energy consultant. He served on the Nuclear Regulatory Commission from 1975 to 1979 and was the senior commissioner in charge during the first day of the Three Mile Island accident in 1979.
Atomic Insights – Rod Adams writes that shaken, flooded, stressed by power outages, Fukushima Daiichi moves into second place. On the catastrophic scale of nuclear accidents, where Three Mile Island or Windscale were in second place and Chernobyl was the clear leader, Fukushima Daiichi has moved into second. It is likely that it will end up to be far closer to Chernobyl than to Three Mile Island in overall economic, public health and geographic consequences.
What this event has taught me is that I need to retreat a bit. I remain firm in my belief that human society needs nuclear energy and that there is no other alternative to fossil fuels that has a chance of meeting needs for reliable power. The importance of reducing fossil fuel consumption should be apparent to anyone who is following the current events in the Middle East and North Africa, whose community is a new host to gas extraction, whose mountains are being blown up, or who is concerned about the effects of dumping 20 billion tons of waste gases into our common atmosphere.
An optimist and a pessimist both look at a situation. The pessimist says: “It is going to fail. A terrible tragedy. People will die.” The optimist says: “It’s OK, it will work. No one will die.” Events unfold. Things neither one predicted happen. The situation resolves and all can see the result.
Canadian Energy Issues – Steve Aplin writes “How will the Fukushima nuclear emergency affect elections in other nuclear countries? Canada could be the first country to answer that question. This country will likely have a federal election in May; Ontario will definitely have an election in October. Nuclear energy was a major issue at both levels even before Fukushima: now that situation has introduced a wildcard into all contending parties’ electoral calculus.