In the past two weeks or so, everyone has been discussing the tragedy in Japan. In addition to the death toll, news headlines have been relentlessly speculating the impact of the Fukushima reactors. Matthew Shaffer’s latest piece in NRO helps amalgamate some of the best minds in the field to clarify what Fukushima may hold, looking beyond the 24-hour news cycle. He goes through the science of a meltdown, but then gives a clear explanation of what dangers an anti-nuclear policy would hold:
First, shutting down the production of new nuclear facilities would mean more reliance on old nuclear facilities, which are less safe. Second, shutting down or phasing out all nuclear facilities would necessitate greater reliance on other energy technologies that have their own dangers. As Professor Brown says, in a refrain common to all the nuclear experts, “Think of the BP explosion. Or Exxon Valdez. Those were pretty hellacious. And every month there’s a coal-mine disaster, and you read about pipelines exploding.” He recommends acknowledging that we are in “a pragmatic space. That doesn’t mean you don’t think every life is valuable. But you’re balancing risks, and acknowledging their reality in the real world we live in.”

…. It’s possible that media overreaction and misunderstanding of the Fukushima incident will hold back the advance of nuclear energy. Chancellor Angela Merkel has ordered a complete shutdown of Germany’s seven oldest nuclear plants. Even if those plants did need to be updated, “You can make additions and updates without shutting down the plants,” Professor Beller says. Merkel’s restriction of the energy supply, he points out, will exacerbate an energy crisis and hurt “low-income people in particular in Germany.”
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