Ten Years After Fukushima, the Future of Nuclear Power Is Up In the Air

Calculated cesium-137 concentration in the air, March 19, 2011     Graphic: Roulex_45, Wiki CC

The Fukushima nuclear disaster is a distant memory to most Americans, but at the time it prompted global concern about the releases of nuclear waste into the ocean and atmosphere.  The 9.0 earthquake and subsequent tsunami killed 15,900 people, and subsequent deaths from illness and suicide linked to the disaster totaled 3,775, according to a retrospective in Smithsonian Magazine.  Dan Gearino of Inside Climate News writes that the impact of the disaster may have rocked the nuclear industry, but it is its high cost that has hampered the growth of nuclear power even though it is carbon-free.  To refresh your recollection, the giant waves from the earthquake-caused tsunami engulfed the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant knocking out the backup generators that cooled the plant’s reactors and spent fuel, causing the reactor to suffer a partial meltdown. Half a million people were evacuated and the area has never been the same since.

Why This Matters:  In Europe and Japan, the Fukushima disaster resulted in moves away from nuclear power.  Gearino examined the state of nuclear power here and says it’s “difficult to examine the U.S. nuclear industry and conclude that it has a bright future.”

Both the Smithsonian and Inside Climate News lookbacks at Fukushima are fascinating and worth your time.

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