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.