First of all, my thoughts are with the Japanese people as they try to cope with and dig themselves out of this three tiered disaster. Hit by a trifecta of earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear meltdown, their losses look to be well in excess of 10,000.
With 500,000 evacuated and displaced, further complicating an already horrible situation, the rest of the world looks on with shock. This tragedy will have many ramifications, not the least of which will be its effect on the global energy picture.
The ‘Nuclear Renaissance‘ is over.
Like no other country, Japan invested more engineering and money into their plants’ safety systems and redundancies than anyone on the planet. This isn’t a Chernobyl; nuclear proponents can’t write this off as shoddy engineering, antiquated systems, or loose government policies.
Kyodo Newshas reported that the Fukushima #2 reactor’s fuel rods are fully exposed. Apparently a meltdown scenario is ongoing. There are reports that several hundred evacuees and rescuers have been exposed to radiation, possibly lethal levels. This extension of the tragedy will play out across the world’s TVs in the coming weeks, months and years.
Today European leaders suspended plans to extend their nuclear footprint.
Der Spiegel reported:
German media commentators across the political spectrum are saying the accident in a highly developed nation such as Japan is further evidence that nuclear power isn’t safe. One commentator in the conservative Die Welt went as far as to liken the global impact of the Fukushima explosions to that of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
Last year President Obama announced $8.3 billion in loan guarantees to Southern Company to build two nuclear power plants in Georgia. Edit: As I write this, a report just came out that President Obama “Stands behind nuclear power.” As stated earlier, I think he’ll be hard pressed to maintain that position as the scenes play across the world’s televisions.
Joe Lieberman said, “I think we’ve got to kind of quietly put, quickly put the brakes on until we can absorb what has happened in Japan as a result of the earthquake and the tsunami and then see what more, if anything, we can demand of the new power plants that are coming on line.”
Wikipedia states there are 439 nuclear power plants supplying 14-16% of the world’s energy needs. Thirty-nine are under construction, with more than 400 in the planning stages. The power needs these planned projects were designed to meet won’t go away in the interim.
I can hear the screech of skidding tires from here.
With North African and Middle East unrest, cancellation of nuclear projects, and the continued de facto drilling suspension in the Gulf of Mexico, $5/gal gas is already a reality.
While the financial impact of this tradgedy looms large, it pales in comparison to the huge personal losses hitting the Japanese people. Keep them in your thoughts and help in any way you can.