Nuclear Power after Fukushima Daiichi

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
March 14 2011 10:08 AM

Nuclear Power after Fukushima Daiichi

Justin Elliott had the bright idea of interviewing the chief flack for the Nuclear Energy Institute.

"There hasn't been any significant release of radiation. So obviously they must be doing something right at this point," said [Mitchell] Singer. While acknowledging that the crisis is still in early stages, Singer argued in our interview, and earlier to the Wall Street Journal , that Americans should be reassured because the industry will learn from the accidents in Japan, where fail-safe systems have themselves failed.

"We share what's known as 'lessons learned' from incidents such as this," he said.

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I'm trying to get a better read on this today, but it's obvious so far that there is no significant pushback to the current consensus -- Democrats and the White House want to build lots of nuclear power plants, Republicans want to build lots more. Read Will Saletan on the thinking behind this.

Even if you count all the deaths plausibly related to Chernobyl—9,000 to 33,000 over a 70-year period—that number is dwarfed by the death rate from burning fossil fuels. The OECD's 2008 Environmental Outlook calculates that fine-particle outdoor air pollution caused nearly 1 million premature deaths in the year 2000, and 30 percent of this was energy-related. You'd need 500 Chernobyls to match that level of annual carnage. But outside Chernobyl, we've had zero fatal nuclear power accidents.

 

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 

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