Green Update–>Second (and More) Thoughts about Nuclear Energy

The Fukushima complex in better days

The Fukushima complex in better days

The unfolding disaster in Japan has put a big damper on what has been called the nuclear renaissance. With fears of Chernobyl and Three Mile Island receding, countries like the U.K., India and China (which has 40 percent of all currently producing nuke plants), steamed ahead. So did the U.S.

Now, the debate begins anew, particularly in Germany, which has just shut down all its pre-1980 nuclear plants. The terrible struggle to control the Fukushima reactors has captured the public’s attention like no Greenpeace demonstration ever could.

But the renaissance was in trouble even beforehand. Besides the continuing safety concerns, issues of cost and the need for government support have put the brakes on nuclear power. Under Presidents Bush and Obama, the U.S. has come on strongly for nuclear. Obama’s new budget “calls for $36 billion in loan guarantees for further nuclear power plant construction.”

But that is never going to fly.

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Uncertain Outlook for Japanese Auto Production After Quake

Nissan cars awaiting shipment destroyed by fire and flood

Nissan cars awaiting shipment destroyed by fire and flood

The humanitarian aspects of the quake and tsunami in Japan are bad enough: 10,000 feared dead, 2.7 million households without either power or water, 24,000 people stranded in northeastern Japan. The Japanese prime minister calls it the worst crisis since the end of World War II.

The Japanese economy is struggling, and so is its auto industry. There doesn’t appear to be much direct damage to the plants, but infrastructure damage—primarily to electricity, water and rail, plus overseas shipping—will cause severe problems for months. Parts shortages and supply chain interruptions will make it impossible to produce finished cars.

The seven top auto producers have suspended production for at minimum several days. Toyota will be out until at least Wednesday, resulting in a loss of 40,000 vehicles. While many Japanese cars are built in the U.S., production here will suffer if plants don’t get the parts they need from Japan.

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