Monday, March 14, 2011

The Japan Syndrome Shakes Up Nuclear Power Fears

The death toll has been growing in post-earthquake-and-Tsunami Japan. Right along with the devastating natural disaster, fear over nuclear power plants have stirred panic. More than a half-million people in Japan have been displaced by growing radiation fears and the massive swath of destruction. Japanese officials ordered people near the Fukushima nuclear power plant complex to stay indoors after a hydrogen blast Monday in the containment building of one of its six reactors, similar to one that occurred Saturday in a separate reactor, according to LA Times. Cabinet secretary Yukio Edano, speaking in a live TV broadcast, said it was believed that the reactor remained intact and "we think that the possibility of a massive radiation emission is low." But the apparently intensifying nuclear crisis sent a wave of fear and anxiety through the quake-battered country, as powerful aftershocks from Friday's temblor continued to rattle cities and towns. 

There is a connection between hydrogen and nuclear power. When you attend the hydrogen conference, the Idaho National Laboratory plays a part in the industry alliance and there is connection between the technologies. Nuclear power is much safer than it used to be -- but it really wasn't long ago that the movie "The China Syndrome" (starring Jane Fonda, Jack Lemmon, and Michael Douglas) and No Nukes concerts with Jackson Browne and other activists brought a lot of attention to the dangers of nuclear power. The Chernobyl disaster in Russia in 1986 also heightened the fear over the safety and sanity of nuclear power. A good chunk of electricity in the US is created through nuclear-powered plants, and this is common around the world. It is a cleaner technology than fossil fuels, but the safety factors are always there. Think Hindenburg disaster for hydrogen and Chernobyl for nuclear -- and now the crisis in Japan -- and you're reminded of the panic these technologies can cause. 

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