There is no question that the events in Japan are ongoing and serious. That said, I believe a lot of people are being misled by much of the news coverage. Take a look at these headlines from the Christian Science Monitor and from Channel News Asia, respectively,
Let me ask a couple of questions? How many were killed by the Three Mile Island incident?
Answer? None. None of the plant workers were killed and no one in the surrounding area.
But, Chernobyl? We all saw the photos of the burning nuclear plant and the open reactor and the workers in radiation suits. "Experts" predicted numerous cancer deaths from "fallout." Lots of people were killed in that, right? OK, let me ask again, how many do you think?
The answer, after 20 years, (i.e., time for cancers to develop) the total number of people killed is 56. To put that twenty-year death toll in perspective, it was less than half of the number of people killed by tornadoes in the United States in 2008.
The situation in Japan still has to play out. We don't know what the casualty numbers might be. But, please keep in mind that if it is "as bad as Three Mile Island" that is pretty good result. Take the ongoing news coverage with a huge grain of salt.
I do believe we should not build additional "old style" nuclear plants but new nuclear technology (i.e., thorium reactors) are extremely promising: Safer, less expensive, little or nothing that would be a problem in the hands of bad guys.
UPDATE: Reader Jim Johnson pointed out the recent tragic deaths associated with natural gas. Five killed in a pipeline explosion in Allentown, PA (not far from Three Mile Island) last month and eight killed six months ago in San Bruno, CA.
There is no source of energy that is without some risk. The challenge is to properly balance the risks.
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