It’s difficult to imagine anyone hasn’t heard about the devastating earthquake and tsunami in Japan. Personally I’ve had the television on constantly since Thursday night, when the first live feeds began airing. It was both horrifying and fascinating to witness the real-time unfolding of a monumental natural disaster from half a world away.
I’ve watched with particular interest the coverage of and commentary about the two Fukushima nuclear power plants and their as-yet uncooled reactors. The Japanese get some 30% of their power from nuclear energy, while in the United States there has been a longstanding distrust of such power. In recent years, that fear seemed to have subsided somewhat and discussions of alternative energy sources had begun to mention nuclear power again.
Now, however, the press seems focused once again on the potential for a nuclear nightmare, and while that’s understandable, it’s a disservice to give airtime to people who either don’t know what they are talking about or who clearly have a bias against nuclear power. Of course, having been married to a nuclear engineer, I have my own biases.
No one wants to see a catastrophic event at a “nuke factory,” and I understand the exigencies of reporting this story, but I wish more attention could be given to the fact that these two plants withstood an 8.9 earthquake, reportedly the fifth largest worldwide since 1900 and Japan’s largest ever.
Only time will tell, but regardless of the outcome in Japan, I hope it stands as a testament to how safe these plants can be rather than an indictment of their potential hazard.