As the situation in Japan grows more dire, countries around the world are re-evaluating their nuclear programs. Germany has already acted; it has decided to mothball seven 1970s-era reactors.
You would think we here in the U.S. would stop our mad drive to build new reactors. Not yet, but many pundits are rightly questioning the wisdom of the push to do so. The Washington Post’s Anne Applebaum said it well in a column today:
If the competent and technologically brilliant Japanese can’t build a completely safe reactor, who can? … [N]uclear power is also promoted because it safe. Which it is — except, of course, when it is not.
Her colleague Eugene Robinson said even more bluntly:
[T]he one inescapable lesson of Fukushima is that improbable does not mean impossible. Unlikely failures can combine to bring any nuclear fission reactor to the brink of disaster. It can happen here.
Meanwhile, some lawmakers on Capitol Hill are calling for a hearing on the safety of nuclear power here in the U.S.
They should be aware of the fact that if we were to have a nuclear disaster here, taxpayers would be on the hook in a major way. The National Journal explains:
An American nuclear power-plant accident similar to the ongoing disaster in Japan would leave taxpayers on the hook for billions, and perhaps hundreds of billions, of dollars in health and economic damage claims, risk experts estimate. Federal law puts most nuclear-accident liability on the shoulders of taxpayers, but regulators have not enforced safety standards vigorously enough to fully safeguard against those risks.
In Texas, Japan’s disaster is already having repercussions. Plans for two new reactors at the South Texas Project facility appear to be on ice. Talks between the companies involved are suspended, and Tokyo Electric Power was expected to invest in the expansion but that’s obviously off.
In Vermont, people are debating the safety of the aging Vermont Yankee plant, which the state legislature has moved to shut down.
And in California, attention is focusing on the two nuclear plants that are on fault lines there.
It really makes you wonder how in the world the Obama administration has be so blase about the whole thing. Obama is continuing to stand by nuclear power and brush aside calls to halt expansion here. Unbelievable. We should be focusing instead on solar and wind, and stopping all federal subsidies for nuclear power.
The administration claims it will “incorporate lessons” from Japan into our program.
Lesson? You want lesson? Here’s the lesson, Mr. President: Nuclear power is inherently unsafe. We cannot afford to risk a catastrophe. We must stop using it. End of lesson.