You might be forgiven for not knowing that nuclear power plants can not trigger a nuclear explosion, a la Hiroshima, which was doubtless the intended reaction by our leftward-leaning journalist (benefit of doubt) friends at The Beast.
Not that there are not serious things going on at the three plants in question. The explosions are from a build up of hydrogen gas, a nasty enough business. And it appears that some, or even all, of the nuclear fuel rods are in meltdown, which will cause the release of some radiation.
Not Chernobyl-scale, though. The Japanese reactors have containment vessels of steel and concrete; Chernobyl did not. Also missing from the Japanese reactors? The graphite moderator (water is used in the Japanese reactors) that literally caught fire at Chernobyl and helped cause the massive plume of radiation.
That will not happen in this disaster. There may be much larger than expected radiation leaks, but given the prompt and prudent response of the Japanese, it’s most unlikely that any problems with the reactors will cause anything approaching the scale of the death and devastation already caused by the earthquake and tsunami.
Not to be indifferent to anyone’s suffering, but this will not be another Chernobyl, which, despite all the end-of-the-world screeching, resulted in about 4,000 deaths due to radiation. The Japanese situation will not approach this, and, even if it did, it’s clear that as many as 10,000 may have died due to the earthquake and resultant tsunami.
The Wall Street Journal’s editorial today provides a useful corrective for the hysteria of some on the left:
We have no special brief for nuclear power over any other energy source. Our view is that it should compete with other sources on a market basis, without subsidies or government loan guarantees. Every energy source has risks and economic externalities, whether they are noise and bird kills (wind), huge land requirements (solar), rig explosions and tanker spills (oil), or mining accidents (coal).
Nuclear power is a necessary component of any energy mix in our country. It would be irrational to allow overblown and groundless hysteria preventing us from its use.
Let’s put it a different way: it will be coal, oil, and natural gas that will be used as fuel if nuclear power plants can’t be built. Except for anything that increases our dependence on foreign sources (oil), I’ve no problem with this. The Left, except of course for the United Mine Workers and their pet Democrats, will go into full screech mode about global cooling-global warming-nuclear winter-climate change-Al Gore is unhappy mode.
The bitter truth? The left would be very happy if we were back in the Middle Ages, burning cow pies for fuel. So long as they got to keep their air-conditioned mansions, limousines, and private jets, of course.