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March 14, 2011

Japan's Crisis Batters Global Nuclear Industry

U.S. President Barack Obama says he believes nuclear power is an important source of energy in the United States.

Mr. Obama said in a television interview Tuesday that nuclear plants are designed to withstand certain levels of natural disasters, including earthquakes and floods.  But he acknowledged that no energy facility is completely foolproof.  He said it is important to work on improving the safety of nuclear technologies.

VOA's Ira Mellman speaks with Scott Burnell, a spokesman for the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, about the disaster in Japan.

A spokesman for the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Scott Burnell, told VOA Tuesday that any request to build a nuclear power plant in the United States has to take into account the possibility of severe events at any given site, like heavy snow, flooding, earthquakes and tsunamis.

Burnell said the United States will look into all the information gathered form the nuclear crisis in Japan to see what can be learned from it.

The problems at Japan's quake-stricken nuclear power plant is hurting the global nuclear industry, with stock prices falling for companies that build or operate nuclear power plants.  There also has been a decline in the price of uranium fuel.

Investor concern follows the temporary closure of some nuclear power plants in Germany, and plans by many nations to closely review safety issues related to earthquakes and cooling systems that are at the heart of the problems in Japan.

Nuclear power provides almost one-fifth of the world's electricity, from 442 nuclear power plants. The United States has 104 nuclear power plants, more than any other nation. But France is more dependent on nuclear energy than most nations, getting about three-quarters of its electricity from nuclear sources.

Another 65 nuclear power plants are under construction, and hundreds more are in some stage of planning.

About one-third of those new plants are in China, which needs more electricity to power its strong economic growth.  India also has about a half-dozen plants under construction.