The news coverage of the nuclear plant accident in Japan has relied too much on speculation, third-hand reporting and hype. In the meantime, anti-energy activists and politicians rush to fill the void of hard facts with irresponsible claims and exaggerations.
What happened in Japan was a natural disaster of historic proportions, a true catastrophe. In these circumstances, thousands die and the damage challenges our abilities to comprehend them. Better if people were to deal with the facts as are already known rather than driving a biased and political storyline.
The Heritage Foundation’s Foundry blog summarizes those facts, “Morning Bell: Nuclear Facts to Remember While Following Japan”:
- The low levels of radiation currently being released will likely have no biological or environmental impact. Humans are constantly exposed to background radiation that likely exceeds that being released.
- The Chernobyl disaster was caused by an inherent design problem and communist operator error that is not present at any of the nuclear plants in Japan.
- There were no health impacts from any of the radiation exposure at Three Mile Island.
- The Nuclear Regulatory Commission does not need to regulate more in response to this. It already regulates enough.
- The plant in trouble in Japan is over 40 years old. Today’s designs are far more advanced.
- No one has ever been injured, much less killed, as a result of commercial nuclear power in the U.S.
While not minimizing the disaster in Japan, let’s also keep risk in perspective. From today’s Wall Street Journal editorial, “Nuclear Overreactions: Modern life requires learning from disasters, not fleeing all risk.”
Our larger point is less about nuclear power than how we react as a society to inevitable disasters, both natural and man-made. Because a plane crashes, we don’t stop flying. Because an oil rig explodes in the Gulf, we don’t (or at least we shouldn’t) stop drilling for oil. And because the Challenger space shuttle blew up, we didn’t stop shuttle flights—though we do seem to have lost much of our national will for further manned space exploration. We should learn from the Japanese nuclear crisis, not let it feed a political panic over nuclear power in general.
For more, see the Nuclear Energy Institute’s website devoted to updates and information about accident in Japan, “Information on the Japanese Earthquake and Reactors in That Region.“