“New Evidence, Therefore New Thinking” Sayonara Nuclear?

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The past week has been heart-wrenching watching Japan be shaken, drowned and radiated beyond any American experience. The initial 8.9 earthquake lasted five whole minutes… by comparison, the Northridge earthquake in California in 1994 was a 6.7 and lasted only 20 seconds, yet caused major damage so the Soutland.

Wave height map for the tsunami from NOAA

The ongoing aftershocks have been regularly over 6.0 in Japan, the tsunami has wiped out numerous buildings and lives, and the nuclear reactor with its possible meltdown has made the Fukushima 50 famous for exposing themselves to twelve times the amount of radiation allowed by British law.

If there is anything positive we can take away from this week of horror… perhaps it is that this ongoing disaster is raising questions about the safety of nuclear energy. Recently I was watching Real Time with Bill Maher where Mitch McConnell was quoted as saying:

“I don’t think right after a major environmental catastrophe is a very good time to be making American domestic policy.”

To which Bill Maher responded with:

“Yes it is. I would like to introduce the concept into America of new evidence, therefore new thinking, and my new thinking is, apparently nuclear reactors are never really safe from an earthquake.”

Has the Japan earthquake and following nuclear power plant troubles made the logical leap for sustainable power for people who thought nuclear power was acceptable?

Living in California offers great opportunity and at the same time it’s share of natural disasters; mud slides, flash floods, fires, riots and of course earthquakes. But last week we experienced a new sort of “threat” with talk all over the news about the radiation cloud from Japan reaching the West Coast. Granted the levels are very minuscule and we have been told time and time again it is harmless, and I am sure some would find a way to argue that point. However, if Bill Maher’s comment above holds weight, the big concern for Californians are the nuclear power plants and the impact a large earthquake would have for us here, we have been told the big one is coming for decades now. Perhaps the social impact of the Fukushima nuclear power plant will bring the concern of nuclear energy closer to home. We know that most people do not begin to care about things until it effects them personally, and the last week has began to effect everyone in California personally… or has it?

So I ask you the experts, do you think this catastrophe in Japan will impact how we look at nuclear power? And if so, what would we need to do, or what are we currently doing that makes us well equipped to make up the power difference through renewable sources?

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