Trust in atomic energy is decreasing due to disasters

BERLIN, GERMANY - MARCH 26: Anti-nuclear activists march to demand Germany disband nuclear energy.

Radiation leaks from the stricken Fukushima Dai-Ichi power station following Japan’s record March 11 earthquake have prompted global leaders to review nuclear development policies.  French President Nikolas Sarkozy claims that France will look beyond nuclear power citing that it’s unsafe and unreliable.

Angela Merkel of Germany also doubts the safety of the energy source.  The Chancellor has ordered the temporary shutdown of seven of the country’s reactors and heightened security criteria.  China is reestablishing an energy plan for 2011 and 2012 to incorporate greater use of solar resources.

This is the largest nuclear disaster event since Chernobyl and has brought a robust political debate of nuclear energy out of the shadows.  There is of course identifiable risk.  Iran’s nuclear program alone raises fears that nuclear energy producing countries may have intentions to become nuclear armed states.  The debate is paralleled by serious national security concerns for threatened neighboring states like India and Israel.

Good political debate doesn’t make for good science.  While the political discourse surrounding energy development and consumption may have deteriorated the science of nuclear energy production has improved over time.

Nuclear energy is clean and doesn’t have near as many problems as other sources.  Large catastrophic events tend to be infrequent.   The small amount of reactor waste that has been generated by all U.S. nuclear power plants remains stored on site at reactors and the danger of transporting waste is overblown as the development of better corrosion resistant canisters improves.

So-called renewable sources may be politically correct  power sources but they alone cannot meet U.S. power demands. Nuclear power accounts for 20 percent of the nation’s base load electricity while renewables supply only 2 percent.

In light of the crisis, President Obama still maintains support of the utility and safety of nuclear energy, and for good reason.  Politicians shouldn’t be so quick to jump on the dirty nuclear bandwagon if statistics show that their constituents and country benefit from the use of such a source.

The crisis in Japan should encourage states to look towards healthy nuclear power and to take additional safety measures with the industry.  Countries must recognize, despite the momentary trend that nuclear energy should remain a part of their energy mix to meet present and future energy supply needs.

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