The Japanese Natural Disaster and its Nuclear and National Security Ramifications: Lessons Learned or Not Learned?

Our close ally and third largest economy Japan suffered a tragic and devastating double blow not only from its twin major natural disasters of earthquake and tsunami but also a nuclear power calamity which will have a long lasting impact on Japan’s people. It will impact its ability to recover and prosper again safely. Thus, it will also hurt the recovery of the global economy. But first our hearts go out to the Japanese people enduring this horrific experience.

There is little doubt that there will be, in time, after the full extent of the nuclear damage is known, a debate about whether continuing in the direction of nuclear power makes sense. It is certain it will prompt worries, and like in the U.S., a close look at the safety of these reactors and possible ways to make them safer.  It will also likely prompt a look at alternatives that do not have the dangers these reactors by their nature pose. They also contribute to the dangers of nuclear proliferation.

Nuclear reactors like these do not only appear in the Japanese landscape but also the French, German and U.S. and elsewhere. The Fukushima reactor in Japan was designed by the American company General Electric. The cost savings and other advantages that these reactors were thought to have has now been totally exceeded many times over by the costs of their damage and hurting impact on the society and economy.

Frankly, this disaster will and should force America to also rethink its own nuclear reactor options and whether it is worth the cost of subsidizing new nuclear reactors with the same inherent problems verses supporting clean and low risk renewable energy such as solar and wind.  Renewable energy such as solar and wind also have many other advantages in terms of climate change, reducing dependence on uncertain oil and gas imports, don’t require tens of thousands of years of storage of dangerous materials and can be built and serviced by Americans.  Obama is right about moving in this direction and I hope Congress will see the wisdom of making a major commitment in this direction.

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