Richard Muller for the Wall Street Journal on the Fukushima incident:
But over the following weeks and months, the fear grew that the ultimate victims of this damaged nuke would number in the thousands or tens of thousands. The “hot spots” in Japan that frightened many people showed radiation at the level of .1 rem, a number quite small compared with the average excess dose that people happily live with in Denver.
What explains the disparity? Why this enormous difference in what is considered an acceptable level of exposure to radiation?
In hindsight, it is hard to resist the conclusion that the policies enacted in the wake of the disaster in Japan—particularly the long-term evacuation of large areas and the virtual termination of the Japanese nuclear power industry—were expressions of panic. I would go further and suggest that these well-intended measures did far more harm than good, not least in limiting the prospects of a source of energy that is safe, abundant and (as compared with its rivals) relatively benign for the environmental health of our planet.
The reactor at Fukushima wasn’t designed to withstand a 9.0 earthquake or a 50-foot tsunami. Surrounding land was contaminated, and it will take years to recover. But it is remarkable how small the nuclear damage is compared with that of the earthquake and tsunami. The backup systems of the nuclear reactors in Japan (and in the U.S.) should be bolstered to make sure this never happens again. We should always learn from tragedy. But should the Fukushima accident be used as a reason for putting an end to nuclear power?
I think it’s clear at this point that the answer is a resounding “No!” It’s a real shame that our world’s populace is so misinformed and afraid that we are essentially putting an end to nuclear power. Nuclear energy as a large-scale clean power source has no practical alternative; so shutting it down essentially means reverting to burning coal, which is quickly destroying our planet.
If anything, Fukushima should have shown us that it’s time to double down on nuclear, and use it to replace our planet-burning coal and gas plants.