News / USA

Nuclear Power Industry Shaken by Japan Quake, Tsunami Disaster

Emergency workers checking each other for radiation exposure in Koriyama, Japan, March 13, 2011
Emergency workers checking each other for radiation exposure in Koriyama, Japan, March 13, 2011
William Ide

As authorities work to avert a disaster at Japan's Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, the situation there is prompting countries across the globe to reevaluate the safety of existing nuclear plants and their plans to build new atomic facilities.  

German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Monday announced a three-month review of plans to continue operating her country's 17 nuclear power plants.

The plants had been scheduled to be phased out by 2021, but Ms. Merkel's government agreed last year to keep them online for an additional 12 years.  "We know how safe Germany's nuclear power plants are.  But it is also true that we cannot yet ignore the importance of nuclear energy as a bridging technology, if we want to continue to cover our own energy consumption as Europe's largest economy and if we want to respect climate protection," she said.

Switzerland has suspended the approval process for three nuclear power plants, so safety standards can be reconsidered.  And India has ordered safety inspections for all of its nuclear plants.

Chinese officials say they will learn from what has happened in Japan, but stressed that the pace of the country's plans to build new reactors will not be affected.  China is aggressively expanding its nuclear power industry.

Industry experts say explosions at three reactors in Japan will seriously affect what many call a nuclear renaissance, a growing shift toward nuclear power as an alternative to fossil fuels.  The World Nuclear Association, which promotes nuclear power and related industries around the world,155 new nuclear reactors are planned or are under construction -- most of them in Asia.

International Atomic Energy Agency Director General Yukiya Amano says its too early to say how the crisis in Japan will affect the nuclear power industry.   "In my view, this is not the accident by design or by human error.  This is an accident caused by natural disaster that is unprecedented," he said.

Amano says the situation in Japan does not change the fact that the world needs a stable source of clean energy to mitigate the impact of climate change.

Australia's Prime Minister Julia Gillard says her nation has plenty of alternative sources of energy and does not need nuclear power.  

The United States has not brought a new nuclear power plant online since before the accident at Pennsylvania's Three Mile Island facility in 1979.

Speaking at a White House press briefing on Monday, Deputy Secretary of Energy Daniel Poneman said nuclear power accounts for 20 percent of U.S. energy production and must be a part of the nation's clean energy policy. "We do see nuclear power as continuing to play an important role in building a low-carbon future.  But be assured that we will take the safety aspect of that as our paramount concern," he said.

President Barack Obama is seeking tens of billions of dollars in government loan guarantees for the construction of new U.S. nuclear power plants.

But Ellen Vancko of the Union of Concerned Scientists says the situation in Japan will only add to the troubles nuclear power faces in the United States. "The nuclear industry was in trouble in the United States, was in trouble long before last week's earthquake and tsunami.  Spiraling construction costs estimates, declining energy demand, low natural gas costs and the failure to put a price on carbon already spelled trouble for this industry," she said.

For now, Vancko says, the crisis in Japan will likely lead to safety inspections at all U.S. nuclear power plants.

You May Like

Video On the Scene: In Gaza, Darkness Brings Dread and Death

Palestinians fear nighttime raids, many feel abandoned by outside world, VOA's Scott Bobb reports More

African Small Farmers Could Be Key to Ending Food Insecurity

Experts say providing access to microloans, crop insurance, better storage facilities, irrigation, road systems and market information could enable greater production More

University of Michigan Wins Solar Car Race

Squad guided its student-designed solar-powered vehicle to fifth consecutive time victory in eight-day bi-annual American Solar Challenge More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Gazans in Shelled School Sought Shelteri
X
Scott Bobb
July 30, 2014 8:16 PM
Israel's air and ground assault against Hamas-led fighters in Gaza has forced many Palestinians to flee their homes, seeking safety. But safe places are hard to find, as VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Jabaliya.
Video

Video Gazans in Shelled School Sought Shelter

Israel's air and ground assault against Hamas-led fighters in Gaza has forced many Palestinians to flee their homes, seeking safety. But safe places are hard to find, as VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Jabaliya.
Video

Video Rapid Spread of Ebola in West Africa Prompts Global Alert

Across West Africa, health officials are struggling to keep up with what the World Health Organization describes as the worst ebola outbreak on record. The virus has killed hundreds of people this year. U.S. President Barack Obama and other world leaders are watching the developments closely as they weigh what actions, if any, are needed to help contain the disease.
Video

Video Michelle Obama: Young Africans Need to Embrace Women's Rights

U.S. first lady Michelle Obama urged some of Africa's best and brightest to advocate for women's rights in their home countries. As VOA's Pam Dockins explains, Obama spoke to some 500 participants of the Young African Leaders Initiative, a six-week U.S.-based training and development program.
Video

Video Immigrant Influx on Texas Border Heats Up Political Debate

Immigrants from Central America continue to cross the U.S.-Mexico border in south Texas, seeking asylum in the United States, as officials grapple with ways to deal with the problem and provide shelter for thousands of minors among the illegal border crossers. As VOA's Greg Flakus reports from Houston, the issue is complicated by internal U.S. politics and U.S. relations with the troubled nations that immigrants are fleeing.
Video

Video Study: Latino Students Most Segregated in California

Even though legal school segregation ended in the United States 60 years ago, one study finds segregation still occurs in the U.S. based on income and race. The University of California Los Angeles Civil Rights Project finds that students in California are more segregated by race than ever before, especially Latinos. Elizabeth Lee reports for VOA from Los Angeles.
Video

Video Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spat

China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video A Summer Camp for All the World

VIDEO: During workshops and social gatherings, the Global Youth Village summer camp encourages young people to cooperate and embrace their differences, while learning to communicate with people from other countries. VOA's Deborah Block has more.
Video

Video From Cantankerous Warlock to Incorruptible Priest, 'Harry Potter' Actor Embraces Diverse Roles

He’s perhaps best known as Mad Eye Moody, the whimsical wizard in the Harry Potter franchise. But character actor Brendan Gleeson's resume includes dozens of films, and he embraces all the characters he inhabits with equal passion. In an interview with VOA’s Penelope Poulou, Gleeson discussed his new drama "Calvary" and his secret to success.

AppleAndroid