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by Eric Hammer | FTMDaily Contributing Writer
TEL AVIV, Mar 16 – The accident began with reactor number 2 and quickly became a critical situation, with the plant facing at least a partial nuclear meltdown. The local population was given conflicting reports about what was happening at first and it took a while until the full scale of the potential accident came out. Even now, the details are a bit sketchy and difficult for most people to grasp. No, we’re not talking about Japan in 2011. We’re talking about Three Mile Island in 1979.
The Three Mile Island accident was a partial meltdown of a single nuclear reactor which was largely contained. However, it was enough to kill plans for new nuclear power plants in the United States for the next 30+ years. Seven years later, a meltdown in Chernobyl, Ukraine largely killed plans for new nuclear power plants anywhere in the world.
It has only been in the past few years that the nuclear energy field has come out of the deep freeze that Three Mile Island and Chernobyl imposed on it. The recent disaster in Japan however has imperiled the renaissance that some environmentalists had pinned their hopes on for ending the world’s addiction to oil and other fossil fuels.
Nick Carter, a uranium analyst from Roswell, GA, quoted in the Wall Street Journal has said that he doesn’t believe that a new moratorium on nuclear power will be imposed in the United States in the wake of the Japanese disaster. He did add however, that “if there is a full core meltdown, it could be catastrophic [for the nuclear industry].”
In Germany by comparison, 40,000 people gathered in Stuttgart to protest against nuclear power and to demand that the German government end plans to add additional nuclear power plants to their electricity grid. Prime Minister Angela Merkel went on German television to try to calm fears in her citizenry.
The problem however is that no viable alternative currently exists for ending American dependence on imported oil and other fossil fuels. Wind, hydroelectric and solar power are all limited in the capacities that they can provide. Nuclear energy is, according to analysts who have studied the industry, the only option currently available which is clean and viable, producing no greenhouse gas emissions and plentiful energy.
Meanwhile, liquefied natural gas and solar power are staging something of a comeback in the wake of the unfolding nuclear disaster at Fukushima. Stocks in both industries have seen spikes over the past few days as fears that the nuclear industry may be in for another deep freeze take hold.
Ultimately, analysts agree that much will depend on the final outcome of the Fukushima disaster and whether or not the Japanese government is able to control the reactors long enough to safely shut them down without causing further nuclear fallout to spread through the Japanese countryside. If they are able to do so, the nuclear industry should be able to rebound within the next few years.
However, if there is a full nuclear meltdown in Fukushima, we expect that plans for the expansion of nuclear power plants will be halted in many parts of the world and that we could see a return to the dark days for nuclear power that followed the disasters at Three Mile Island and Chernobyl.
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