What Will The Earthquake In Japan Mean For The Future of Nuclear Power

It seems the public was just getting over the memories of Chernobyl and Three Mile Island and now the earthquake in Japan has opened more questions to the safety of nuclear power.

What do you think this will do to the movement to build more nuclear power plants? In America? In your country?

I realize the current nuclear reactors are of older designs and that newer ones yet to be built would have more safe guards, but that probably will go unheard.

So what are your views about the future of nuclear power plants?

I think it will depend on how bad it actually is, which remains to be seen, both in level of leak, and cleanup issues.

Efforts will be made to say its bad either way, but if older reactor designs do survive this level of earthquake and tsunamis without a major leakage, Id call it a pretty strong vote for their safety myself, and Id also want to see how more modern designs would have done in the same situation.


It’s dead, Jim.

You won’t see a new nuke plant in this country until we’ve drilled everywhere we can drill, and otherwise exhausted all other options.

Bring them on. Nuclear power is still by far the cleanest form of energy we have. The more nuclear plants the better.

I don’t know but I live about 25 miles downwind from two nuclear power plant reactors that are about a 1/2 mile from the southeast Atlantic coast (hurricane & tsunami prone) so I’m thinking twice about retiring in the area. BTW, I have been inside one of its containment vessels.

How come we never hear about such problems from France where 77% of their power comes from 59 or more nuke plants?

Here’s how it all works:

Oh, I was in the containment vessel when it was under construction, as part of an Engineer Day tour.

Not too many hurricanes, earthquakes, or tsunamis hitting France, perhaps? :slight_smile:

Agreed in full.

Cleanest except for, you know, the nuclear waste, which is by far the worst type of pollution that mankind has ever created. And we still don’t have a good long term plan for dealing with it. But other than that, it’s great.

That said, I don’t have anything better to suggest. Nuke plants are horrible. Coal plants are horrible. But, if you need a whopping big amount of energy, currently those are your only two practical choices.

It’s not going to kill the industry. They’ll just say nothing bad could ever happen with their new designs.

We need energy. People forget. You can be sure France and China aren’t going to give up their nuke plants.

We’ll need nuke plants in the US, especially in the east. Thing is, operators don’t like the loan guarantees we’re willing to give them. Projects have already been cancelled, so when you hear in the news about all the canceled nuke projects that are being blamed on nuclear phobia because of this thing in Japan, don’t believe it. That’s not why projects are being canceled.

We have plenty of perfectly good ways to deal with it; the obstacles are political. Nor is nuclear waste the “worst type of pollution” ever created no matter how hard people hyperventilate over it.

I agree - one of the most exciting developments fission power is fast breed reactors that can reuse the waste, potentially dealing with the side effect of the process. It’ll do for me until fusion gets perfected.


We haven’t green lighted a new one in the US since 3-Mile. Obama was planning to build new (safer) ones but I think this will be set back.

Sadly, nothing. In one of the many special reports yesterday, they asked if anything would change in Japan, considering that a meltdown would affect Tokyo if the winds are wrong (and given that currently nobody can say with certainty that a meltdown can be averted!), re: nuclear power (and keeping in mind that the power company running decades-old reactors already has a long history of scandals).

The answer of the reporter? No, the nuclear lobby is too strong.

You can see it already in the other threads on this very board: Our reactors are better than this! (Factual evidence not required or wanted, just knee-jerk jingoism). One doper put it that Chernobyl doesn’t count in discussions of nuclear power, it’s in alternate reality. Probably because under the Soviets, even the law of physics behave different, because only Soviets cut corners, not for-profit companies …

Question to those US dopers who are sure that their reactors are 100% safe by design: how many old-style reactors with outdated, unsafe design are still running? How many of those are over earthquake fault lines? How many reactors built in the 60s and 70s have had their shells re-inforced, and how many have cracking concrete because of age? How many old-style reactors have been grandfathered through the new security measures, instead of updating them? How many “incidents” have the companies running the old reactors reported last year/ last decade, and how many did really happen according to neutral inspections/ sources?

Will any of the above questions be honestly adressed by the pro-nuclear lobby or just handwaved away? The latter. Will the pro-nuclear lobby bribe a few politicans and do a public image campaign to snow the public, as usual? Sadly, yes. Will things continue, until you get your own GAU? Yes. Would a GAU on US soil change opinions? No, not even then.

What ways of dealing with nuclear waste are there besides “Stick it in the ground and wait several ten thousands years”? Re-processing is not a full solution, only a partial one, and works only on some type of fuel. Plus the risk of attracting terrorists.

I can’t think of any other waste product where the half-life is tens of thousands of years, affecting our great-great-great-great-great-great-grandchildren.

yes, because solar and wind don’t work in the US. I guess it’s those special physics laws again.

Worse than arsenic and cyanide? Those stay dangerous for all eternity, and we produce them by the ton.

Arsenic and cyanide don’t radiate outward, you know. You just need to put them into a non-corrosive container so they can’t leak out, and no problem. If you notice the containers are starting to fail, you can simply go in and put them into new containers, because they are only dangerous if ingested, not on the skin and not just being near them.

Radioactive waste will radiate unless you put them into lead, which you then will need to make corrosion proof, and then you need to store the containers somewhere without earthquake or water activities for the next 10 000 years, because those could cause containment breach.

Public opinion in the US is solidly anti-nuclear. There isn’t really any pro-nuclear lobby here.

Honestly, sun and wind power plants are not good enough. The supply is not constant enough, and they use way more surface area to generate the same amount of electricity than a thermal or nuclear power plant of comparable output.

Regarding getting rid of high-activity nuclear waste (of which a rather small amount is generated by volume, to be honest), the best option would be something I read about some time ago: Inject it in a subduction zone, where the slow movement of the tectonic plates would be taking it deeper, back to where it came from. Nobody is going to do this, though: It is political suicide, given the prevalent attitude among the population.

Which is a pity. I am solidly pro-nuclear, but I see that it will take a lot of energy shocks to get governments and populations solidly behind nuclear energy. That won’t happen soon.

(Also, the incident in Fukushima rates a 4 in the International Nuclear Event Scale. Three Mile Island was a 5, the Goanias incident was a 5, and Chernobyl was a 7. To put things into perspective, Three Mile Island had precisely zero lasting effect in the environment and the population of the zone. The current incident in Fukushima rates below that one).