In the midst of the ongoing partial meltdown at Japan’s Fukushima nuclear plant, energy experts across the spectrum are urging caution and patience in considering the implications for nuclear energy in the United States and internationally. In particular, many energy and climate change experts note that we should not so readily dismiss nuclear power as an option for reducing greenhouse gas emissions and meeting rising global energy demand.
International Energy Agency Chief Nobuo Tanaka:
“While I understand the public’s fear, I am concerned given the important role of nuclear power. I encourage patience until more information is gathered for a full review so we can learn the lessons,” he added… ”The cost of fighting against global warming will increase, that is sure,” he told Reuters. “I think it is very difficult (to fight global warming), even impossible, without using nuclear power.”
U.S. Secretary of Energy Steven Chu:
“The president and the administration believe we have to be looking very, very closely at the events in Japan. We have to apply whatever lessons that can be and will be learned from what has happened and what is happening in Japan,” Chu explained. “Those lessons would then be applied to first look at our current existing fleet of reactors, to make sure that they can be used safely and… how as one proceeds forward, any lessons learned can be applied.
…”The administration believes we must rely on a diverse set of energy sources, including renewables like wind and solar, natural gas, clean coal and nuclear power,” Chu said before a House subcommittee. “The administration is committed to learning from Japan’s experience as we work to continue to strengthen America’s nuclear industry.”
Senator Jeff Bingaman (D-NM), Chairman of the Senate Energy & Natural Resources Committee:
“We have depended on nuclear power for many decades to meet much of our electricity needs, and I think we will continue to in the future,” said Bingaman, D-N.M. “And I do believe we can produce power safely. We’ve done that. We’ve done it for many decades.”
“Clearly we need to be sure that the design that we are using in our power plants is the very best and the safest design. And whatever changes we need to make to those designs or to the regulations of those plants we need to make. But I’m not persuaded that nuclear power should be deleted from the list of options that we look at.”
U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission:
Nuclear power plants built in the areas usually thought of as earthquake zones, such as the California coastline, have a surprisingly low risk of damage from those earthquakes. Why? They built anticipating a major quake… The NRC, the federal agency responsible for nuclear power safety, says the odds are in the public’s favor. “Operating nuclear power plants are safe,” the NRC said when it reported the new risk estimates.
International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA):
Robert Engel, former IAEA inspector and Swiss nuclear engineer, told Reuters Sunday that a partial meltdown of a reactor “is not a disaster”… the current Japanese reactor crisis bear little similarity to the Soviet-era meltdown at Chernobyl, which came about through design flaws and human error before it spread a radioactive cloud across much of Europe and Asia 25 years ago.
Experts at the IAEA “aren’t planning for the next Chernobyl” says a mid-level Western diplomat familiar with how the organization works. “But nor do [they] think we are out of the woods yet. The reactors are still hot. But this situation has no relation to Chernobyl, even though I realize that in the popular lore, if you say ‘Chernobyl,’ it means ‘catastrophic meltdown.’”