The earthquake in Japan and subsequent tsunami have severely damaged some of  that nation’s nuclear power plants. There have been radiation leakages and evacuations of residents in the surrounding areas. But is that reason to abandon the idea of adding to the electrical generation in the United States by building more nuclear power plants?

I am mulling my own answer. I long ago was opposed to nuclear power, probably more due to propaganda, or really insufficient information, than for any belief I may have had that nuclear power was inherently bad.

Until these recent events, I had greatly warmed to the idea of replacing  carbon emitting plants with nuclear for the sake of reducing or reversing global warming. I had read articles that told of improvements in design and safety and that also posited the knowledge gleaned from our Three Mile Island disaster and Russia’s Chernobyl catastrophe would be useful in preventing similar occurrences.

Now we see in Japan that one of the five strongest earthquakes on record, and the waves of a tsunami overwhelming near seaside nuclear plants, together with power outages interfering with the normal actions taken to shut down a reactor had combined to bring at least a possible doomsday scenario to the Land Of The Rising Sun.

But are these facts enough to deter any consideration of future nuclear plants and/or to trigger the closure of existing ones?

Suppose that a giant hydro dam had crumbled under the impact of the biggest earthquake in a century and sent a wave of water racing down some valley in northern Japan. Imagine that whole villages and towns had been swept away, and that 10,000 people were killed — an even worse death toll than that caused by the tsunami that hit the coastal towns.

Would there be a great outcry worldwide, demanding that reservoirs be drained and hydro dams shut down? Of course not. Do you think we are superstitious savages? We are educated, civilized people, and we understand the way risk works.

That is an excerpt from an op-ed piece in today’s Post Gazette.

Ms Dwyer makes a lot of sense that we should not irrationally do away with nuclear power.

Another piece in the same paper asks this:

Just how necessary is nuclear power?

The answer, with qualifications, is pretty damn much, especially if you want to curb carbon emissions from power generation. The op-ed piece goes on to discuss many of the practical concerns that need to be addressed.

And a blogger called Toadsly, who I have encountered through comments in other forums, offers a perspective based on deliberate misuse of nuclear applications but inspired by the situation in Japan.

On balance I believe we should proceed, cautiously but still proceed, to use more nuclear power, not less, to provide our electric needs. If our scientists avail themselves of the lessons of others’ mistakes or missteps, then we can so proceed to ensure our plants will be reasonably safe, while acknowledging that there may be circumstances and complications beyond our current ability to foresee them.

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