The future of nuclear power

It’s not surprising that, in the wake of the Japanese earthquake that seriously damaged two nuclear power plants, people in the United States are reassessing the safety of nuclear power.

No new nuclear plants have been built in this country since 1979’s Three Mile Island accident, but a cautious resurrection of the industry has been under way. Expect that resurrection to be put on hold as the events in Japan continue to unfold and are analyzed. That’s fine, but it shouldn’t halt an entire industry.

For one thing, a new generation of nuclear reactors uses a different cooling mechanism that doesn’t rely on backup diesel generators, such as those that failed in Japan. It’s also important to remember that the steel-and-concrete containment vessels holding the fuel rods in Japan have so far maintained their integrity.

We need to continue to develop the safest nuclear plants possible, and be very careful about where they may be located. But we shouldn’t turn our backs on an important energy resource based on the very limited information at hand from Japan.


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