wOw’s Question of the Week

Does the tragedy in Japan change your feelings about using nuclear power?






JONI EVANS: The Fukushima accident strikes me as more of a learning experience than a dead end. It’s now clear, for instance, that nuclear plant reactors should not be built too closely to each other … a basic lesson to learn. There are dangers in all sources of fuel as we have seen. The risks in nuclear energy may be more scary than the others simply because radiation is not visible … but their actual record is one of the safest and most tightly regulated forms of power generation. Only Chernobyl resulted in actual deaths (though, granted, we haven’t yet heard the outcome at Fukushima). I’m staying hopeful.

CANDICE BERGEN: The thing is, despite all the reassurance people pound me with (the total success of nuclear power plants in France, for example), I still believe (correctly) that the Radioactive Shoe is going to drop. It is not and never can be completely safe, and we must work harder and faster to develop other fuel sources.


JOAN GANZ COONEY: I’ve always been ambivalent about nuclear power and the tragedies in Japan certainly haven’t changed my feelings. However, we are living with so much danger — natural disasters, gas line explosions, oil spills (very dangerous for the environment, if not for people) — that I suspect we or the next generation will be living with a lot more nuclear power plants. Our appetite for new energy sources is unabated and the population is not getting any smaller, so I assume we’ll consider the dangers something we can live with.

16 Responses so far.

  1. avatar KarenR says:

    Nope, it hasn’t changed my mind. I’ve never been a supporter of large scale nuclear energy. It’s easy to point fingers at the risks of other energy systems while touting the safety of nuclear but the primary difference unmentioned is that nuclear’s effects will continue to be felt going forward thanks to the nature of its fuel waste.
    One minor disagreement with Ms. Bergen – It shouldn’t be all about developing new energy sources when we could quickly go a long way toward reducing current demand. Why was the speed limit raised? Why are people allowed to sit and idle in drive-thru lanes? Why did Reagan rip the solar panels off the White House roof? Why are Times Square and unnecessarily brightly lit buildings praised instead of dimmed?
    It seems any time energy efficiencies or advancements are achieved piggish behavior quickly spends the savings.

  2. avatar Barbara says:

    This has not changed my point of view. We do not know how to handle the radioactive waste and we are very vulnerable to incidents. One incident affects potentially millions of people. And contrary to what one pundit, Ann Coulter, said recently, radiation is NOT good for your health.
    I do not want to leave my children the legacy of vast ruined areas like the area around Chernobyl and now Fukushima. I do not want them to worry about how much radiation is in their food or in the air that blows in from some nuclear disaster. I do not want them to have to worry about someone bombing a nuclear facility and killing/sickening millions. Let’s invest much more heavily in renewable sources of energy, work on using less overall and find a much safer, healthier way to live.

  3. avatar alice ruth says:

    All aspects of nuclear energy can be dangerous, from the mining of uranium to the disposal of nuclear waste, so more stringent efforts must be made to keep people safe. I wish there was a cooperative will among citizens, politicians, and energy industries to develop alternative fuels with our safety and well-being as much the motivation as profit. My concern has been how governments can keep nuclear plants safe from terrorists. However, forces of nature beyond our control may, in fact, be our undoing. It would appear that the best plans as to how to build nuclear plants to withstand earthquakes and/or tsunamis were not good enough. How safe are the nuclear plants in America? Does anyone really know?

  4. avatar J Holmes says:

    I live near one and I also live in area that experiences earthquakes – still not a big fan.

  5. avatar Bonnie O says:

    As one of the commentators said (cannot remember which one) it is very hard to disregard an energy source that leaves a zero carbon footprint.  Yet the question of nuclear waste still lingers even though much of the waste can now be recycled.  Unfortunately, I am once again in the mushy middle and would prefer “not in my backyard, if you please”. 

  6. avatar Evil Betty says:

    I’m with Candace Bergen on this one.  It’s too dangerous. The radioactive shoe is gonna drop someday, and it’s just not worth it. We’ve got to start encouraging young people and getting them excited about science again, fostering brilliant minds to explore alternative energy sources.

  7. avatar flyonthewall says:

    I’ve never been a supporter of nuclear energy and the problems at the Fukushima plant just strengthened my beliefs. In all of their planning, things still went wrong that will cost many many people dearly. There is no telling just where the next natural disaster will occur and if it will involve another nuclear plant. I think it is just plain arrogant to think that the fallout from these disasters won’t cause widespread harm to the general populace. We need to have more educated, caring folks in positions of power so that we can avert wiping out the human race.

  8. avatar Chris Glass` says:

    There are nuclear facilities within fifty miles of where I live. So far there have been no incidents as they call them. Our public service commission endorses them citing lower costs for electricity. I am not entirely satisfied that that is true. I am all for exploring more types of solar energy. Solar cells aren’t going to leak radiation.

  9. avatar Lila says:

    Right now, with only a small percentage of the world’s total energy requirement being filled by renewable clean energy sources, there is little reasonable choice. But I think Candice is right about the radioactive shoes, so our focus needs to be on weaning off of fossil fuels and nuclear energy, and filling the world’s needs with renewable sources.

    The biggest problem with nuclear energy is the inevitable production of radioactive waste, and the question of what to do with it. We can’t get rid of it; it’s just a question of how and where to store it. Forever.

  10. avatar Count Snarkula says:

    No it has not. Since watching “The China Syndrome” those things have scared the be-jeebus out of me!

  11. avatar Linda Myers says:

    I don’t think anything can be gained by judging the consequences which have happened in Japan, though hopefully the world can learn from it and create backup systems which make use of natural elements in the future if electricity fails such as solar systems and alternative pumping systems of water reservoirs for the future. We rely on elements of nuclear components in this world from the plants to our cell phones and technology in everyday life – sad that the safety in doing so is second to the demand and creation of technology.

  12. avatar Nota Telling says:

    Due to the inefficiencies of solar and wind technology and the pollution produced by coal and gas fired plants, nuclear power is our best hope for the future. Having lived in the “bulls-eye” around Indian point, I still believe it is our best chance to rid ourselves from the dependency on foreign oil. Nuclear plants are and can be safe.

    • avatar KarenR says:

      We currently have the technology to minimize pollution from coal and gas fired plants. We have no comparable way to handle the pollution (yes, pollution) that is spent nuclear fuel.

  13. I never was a fan of nuclear energy and I’m even less of one now…

  14. avatar hello says:

    Has this ever unfolding events changed my views on nuclear? No, it has not. In Japan, it’s a full-scale rush with new horrors each day simply trying to contain the known issues in the 4 reactors, much less the unknowns.

    In America, the immediate concern is we are simply running out of room to house the spent rods until they are considered safe. This does not include the issues of aging plants, national security, disaster planning (including tornado), etc. We simply must look at all alternative energy options and begin investing in the build-out and sustainability.

  15. avatar Mahulda Fite says:

    The ‘accident’ at the Fukushima nuclear plant has nothing to do with the ‘dangers of nuclear energy’. The accident occurred because of the earthquake (9.0-unprecedented) and subsequent tsunami.  Ironically, the reactors survived the quake–as designed–it was the 47 foot wall of water that caused the problem.  How often is that going to happen? And those places that don’t have the danger of serious quakes should not worry.

    Chernobyl occurred because of poor design and no containment vessel.