Monday, March 14, 2011

The White-Knuckle Worries about Japan and Nuclear Problems

As a terrified and grief-stricken Japan begins to rebuild, questions about what can be learned from this terrible tragedy are beginning to be assessed in our own country. The matter of nuclear power plant safety in America is slowly becoming a talking point of many U.S. politicians worried about issues similar to those Japan is facing after the quake.

Democratic Representative Ed Markey of Massachusetts has recently called into question the practicality of building a nuclear power plant in states prone to earthquakes. "We just have to call a time-out and examine whether or not those safety features necessary in the future are built into new nuclear power plants in our country," said Markey, who sits on the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

The question of nuclear power safety even reaches farther than just earthquake-prone territories, according to politicians like Senator John Kerry. “We clearly need to have a new generation of safer, more fail-safe plants if any are going to be built,” said the former presidential candidate in comments quoted on Politico. “Obviously this is going to go through a much greater scrutiny. It ought to. There’ll be a much tougher standard. There ought to be. Whether there’s any at all,” he added.

So as the fallout from Japan continues to be assessed and U.S. leaders begin to make plant safety an issue, people are asking: Is nuclear power worth it? With more than 70 percent of carbon-free energy in the United States estimated to be coming from nuclear power, we’ve clearly made nuclear energy a staple of alternative energy in America. But are we doing enough to protect ourselves, and should we continue down our current path of nuclear investment?

On April 8, the Commonwealth Club's Climate One series will hold a program on the viability of nuclear energy in California. "Nuclear Power: More, Less or the Status Quo" will examine if nuclear power is worth it for California and discuss viable options to improving it if it is.

Also join us for a discussion on green energy solutions other than nuclear power on April 5. Duke of Energy and Energy Policy: What's Next? will give a closer look at what’s next in the green sector. Learn what is possible and get an insider's look at what the future might hold for America’s energy needs.

–By James Dohnert


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