The tragedy and consequences of the terrible earthquake and subsequent tsunami in Japan cannot be overstated. It will be years before the island nation will recover, and the effects of this natural disaster will be felt by billions of people around the globe.
There is no way for anyone to adequately measure the current and eventual cost of this calamity. However, one of the costs of the two-pronged disaster is likely to be major delays in the construction of new nuclear power plants here in the United States to help meet our nation’s ever-growing need for energy. The fear of a nuclear accident is the greatest and most powerful deterrent to the construction of more plants in the United States, and the Japan tragedy will be maximized by those who oppose building more plants.
The fact is, however, nuclear power plants can be built with extreme safety features, and the situation in Japan is the result of “perfect storm” conditions that caused a breach and contamination. No one can say whether there ever would be another set of conditions that could cause a similar failure.
What is known, however, is that some way must be found to meet this country’s ongoing energy needs. It is wrong and silly to think solar or wind power can provide the energy to keep this nation free from dependence on foreign oil. Nor will electric or battery-powered cars be the answer.
Strict regulations are keeping this country from accessing huge deposits of oil. Some politicians who consider this issue to be critical to their political success also are putting up roadblocks even though they realize the eventual need to allow more exploration of drilling areas in offshore locations as well as in Alaska.
Likewise, this country has huge deposits of coal, but President Obama’s energy and environmental policies will make it extremely difficult for any company to establish new coal-fired power plants. He has said trying to meet his standards will surely bankrupt any such effort.
Natural gas is a possibility that, so far, has gone undeveloped.
Nuclear power can meet the demand, but getting approval for new plants will become even more challenging due to the situation in Japan.
Hopefully, the decisions concerning the future of nuclear power in the United States will be handled in a sensible manner and not based solely on fear. What is best for the future of this country and its people? What will be the energy needs of this country 25 or 50 years from now, and how can these needs be met? What will be needed to continue to provide the quality of life in this country that made the United States a true world leader? Or are there politicians likely to use the energy situation to justify the federal government entering the picture to ration and control the amount of energy individuals and companies can use?
The crisis in Japan is ugly, but it should not be used to handicap the nation from using modern technology, such as nuclear reactors, to provide clean, affordable energy.