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The meltdowns at three nuclear plants at Fukushima, Japan almost three years ago were an economic disaster, but were these plants inherently unsafe? Did the Fukushima designs provide adequate safety during extreme circumstances? The magnitude 9 earthquake that hit Japan in 2011 was its largest ever. However it was the enormous tsunamis that led to meltdowns. At Fukushima the spent fuel pools never leaked water in spite of the earthquake, its aftershocks, and tsunamis. Even Fukushima’s emergency power systems initially survived the earthquake, only to be soon destroyed by the tsunamis. The nuclear plants at Fukushima were in an extreme… [more]View Insight
J.C. Ward Jr. Professor of Nuclear Energy Engineering
The premise of Robert Stone’s newly released documentary, Pandora’s Promise, is that despite the scary features of nuclear radiation, nuclear power is the best chance we have to avoid the catastrophe projected from burning fossil fuels to power the growing world economy. The documentary’s approach is rather unique – former anti-nuclear environmentalists describe how and why they became pro-nuclear, in spite of even the recent major Fukushima Daiichi reactor disaster. It is important to add that Director Robert Stone is not arguing that standard “light water reactors” (LWRs) should be pursued, but rather newer designs, such as inherently safe breeder… [more]View Insight
The Japanese government, which had announced a gradual phase-out of nuclear power by 2040, reversed that position and will instead develop an energy policy “with flexibility, based on tireless verification and re-examination.” The country was faced with the difficulty of replacing the 30% of electricity it gets from nuclear energy, and altering an existing strategy that would have seen that number rise to 50%. The reduction in nuclear energy usage would have come through greater reliance on renewable energy, conservation, and the use of fossil fuels, according to the original plan. Although nuclear will remain in the mix, no new… [more]View Insight
March 11th, 2012 marked the one-year anniversary of a severe earthquake and tsunami off the coast of Japan. This natural disaster killed 20,000 people, and led to the crisis at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power facility. The anniversary offered a chance to reflect on the events surrounding the nuclear crisis, and responses to it in Japan and around the world. In a New York Times op-ed, Richard Brodsky sees the Fukushima crisis as an opportunity to reform the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission. “In order for nuclear power to play a significant role in our energy future, the American public needs… [more]View Insight
In an opinion piece in the New York Times, writer David Ropeik argues that the nature of how humans perceive risk has led to some impractical, and potentially counterproductive, energy and environmental policies. According to research cited by Ropeik, the following factors make people more likely to perceive higher levels of risk: “Human-made risks upset us more than risks which are natural; Risks imposed on us are scarier than those we take by choice; Risks grow scarier the greater the pain and suffering they cause.” These perception factors percolate into our energy and environmental policy, Ropeik argues, sometimes leading to… [more]View Insight
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) approved by a 4-to-1 vote Southern Company’s bid to build two nuclear reactors along the Georgia-South Carolina border. These are the first new reactors to be approved by the NRC in more than 30 years. The reactors will cost a Southern Co. led investment group around $14 billion, and will begin producing power as soon as 2016 or 2017. “Today’s licensing action sounds a clarion call to the world that the United States recognizes the importance of expanding nuclear energy as a key component of a low-carbon energy future that is central to job creation,… [more]View Insight
Kadak Associates, Inc.
In March 2011 a giant earthquake and tsunami struck Japan and killed over 20,000 people. These events also seriously damaged 4 nuclear plants at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant. The subsequent release of radiation led to local, precautionary evacuations since the course of the accident and potential contamination was unknown at the time. According to a June 2011 report by the IAEA International Fact Finding Expert Mission, “To date no health effects have been reported in any person as a result of radiation exposure from the nuclear accident”. This included the operators and others who worked from the beginning… [more]View Insight