Pro-Nuclear Energy Forces Barely Pause to Rubberneck at Fukushima

Fukushima (how convenient that it shares the same last five letters as Hiroshima) doesn’t seem to have fazed another Rim of Fire country in the least. The Associated Press reports:

Indonesia says four nuclear reactors it plans to build near a volatile fault will be safe and more modern than the Japanese plant critically damaged by an earthquake and tsunami. . . . The four reactors will be built on Bangka island by 2022. Bangka is near Sumatra, the heavily populated island where a 2004 earthquake caused the massive tsunami that killed 230,000 people in a dozen nations.

While Indonesia may be struggling to meets its nation’s energy needs, the country with the most developed energy infrastructure doesn’t seem to have budged much either. Dave Weigel reports in a piece at Slate: Full Steam Ahead.

In Japan, there is a race against time to stop meltdowns at reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi power plant. In Washington, no one wants to overreact. There is near unanimity on the idea that the United States needs to keep building those plants, as President Obama requested in his budget and as Republicans request every day. . . . the pro-nuke ranks were swelled by liberals, who . . . are more worried about climate change than about the risk of freak accidents.

Also at Slate, Nouriel Roubini makes it more explicit why the age of nuclear energy isn’t winding down anytime soon.

Severe unrest in the Middle East has historically been a source of oil-price spikes, which in turn have triggered three of the last five global recessions. The Yom Kippur War in 1973 caused a sharp increase in oil prices, leading to the global stagflation of 1974-75. The Iranian revolution in 1979 led to a similar stagflationary increase in oil prices, which culminated in the recession of 1980-81. And Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait in August 1990 led to a spike in oil prices at a time when a U.S. banking crisis was already tipping America into recession. Oil prices also played a role in the recent finance-driven global recession. By the summer of 2008, just before the collapse of Lehman Bros., oil prices had doubled over the previous 12 months, reaching a peak of $148 a barrel—and delivering the coup de grâce to an already frail and struggling global economy buffeted by financial shocks.

Middle-East instability, along with looming Peak Oil and global warming (dictating the need for carbon-free energy), seems to guarantee as steep an uphill fight as ever for those of us opposed to nuclear energy. Not to mention — bearing in mind how heavily subsidized the industry is — all the money to be made from it.

Fukushima’s lack of the silver lining that backlash against the nuclear industry should, in a sane world, constitute only adds insult to injury.