National Commentary

Nuclear Near Miss Strikes Fear

Japan’s near nuclear meltdown has led all major nuclear countries to re-evaluate such power, considering its risks and dangers to humanity.

Japan’s near nuclear meltdown has led all major nuclear countries to re-evaluate such power, considering its risks and dangers to humanity.

Some nuclear experts are saying it’s not worth it, particularly in places like Japan, which is so vulnerable to earthquakes and natural catastrophes.

Japan recently suffered a triple whammy – perhaps its largest earthquake, which triggered a massive tsunami, taking thousands of lives, followed by leaks in an aging Japanese nuclear plant.

A month before the powerful quake shattered the Fukushima Daiichi plant, government regulators approved a 10-year extension for the oldest of the six reactors linked to a power station, despite safety warnings.

It was the perfect catastrophe with an 9.0 magnitude quake.

There are some reports that Japan is not quite divulging the extent of the damage. The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission believes the Fukushima plant has been leaking extremely high amounts of radiation. Food and water have been contaminated near the emissions.

The White House warned Americans in Japan to stay outside a 50 mile radius of the reactors.

China demonstrated the growing skepticism about nuclear power when it recently suspended consideration of approval of new plants. Germany has shut down old reactors, and India is reviewing its nuclear systems. Switzerland, the United Kingdom and the United States are all reviewing their nuclear status.

Despite a reassessment, the U.S. is apparently going to stick with nuclear power. Two experts, who have long studied the question of nuclear power, believe other sources of energy are preferable and much safer. They are Dr. Janette Sherman, who edited the definitive book “Chernobyl” on Russia’s 1986 Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant meltdown, and Dr. Alexey Yablokov, who advised Prime Ministers Leonid Brezhnev and Mikhail Gorbachev on nuclear matters. Both of them are saying emphatically “no” to nuclear power – Yablokov said, “Absolutely not.”

Dr. Sherman said solar power and conservation could meet the needs for energy and save money. Both agreed that wiping out nuclear energy becomes more difficult for the major powers because it is linked to nuclear weapons.

Japan suffered the first nuclear explosion during World War II. To end the war, President Harry Truman ordered the bombing of Hiroshima – and shortly afterwards, Nagasaki – in 1945. After Truman dropped the devastating nuclear bombs, U.S. scientists did a lot of soul searching on the validity of such warfare.

The military won out. As the world continues to accumulate nuclear weapons, the possibility of stopping the use of such weapons seems impossible. We are living in a very dangerous world where more and more nations are adding nuclear weapons to their stockpiles. The U.S. maintains leadership in the build up of the weapons once considered impossible for the world to even consider using.

Whether the U.S. should have launched the first atomic bomb is still open to debate, but it turned out to be a Pandora’s box. It has opened the way for the U.S. to develop small nuclear weapons for the battlefield.

Several nations now have the doomsday weapons – U.S., Great Britain, France, Germany, Russia, China, India, Pakistan, Israel and perhaps others. Iran hopes to create its own nuclear arsenal. The U.S., Israel and other nations are trying to block it.

In addition to the nuclear threats, there are psychological worries, depression and fear among the Japanese people.

The Japanese are brave people. But thousands are dead in putting their faith in new technology to stay on top economically and to be the most modern nation in Asia. Their economy depends on it.

But there are limits beyond their control. Two agencies have an important but conflicting role. The World Health Organization, to look after our health on this planet, and the International Atomic Energy Agency, which is designed to promote nuclear energy. Both are engaged in this latest crisis in Japan.

It’s time to reassess the human and financial costs of nuclear energy. The price may be too high.