Threat of nuclear meltdown in Japan ignites global debate over safety of nuclear energy

The possibility of a nuclear meltdown in Japan Saturday raised global concerns over the use of nuclear power.

A magnitude-8.9 earthquake shook Japan's eastern coast on Friday and damaged several nuclear power plants. An explosion Saturday morning at the Fukushima Daiichi plant and concerns over rising pressure inside reactors were among the factors which ignited debate about nuclear energy in various countries.

In Germany, over 40,000 protestors joined to form a 28 mile long human chain stretching from a nuclear power plant in southern Germany to the nearby city of Stuttgart, reported Deutsche Welle. The protest had been planned previous to the earthquake, but the high turnout was undoubtedly fueled by fears of a nuclear meltdown in Japan.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel responded with a promised inspection of the country's 17 atomic energy plants, saying that business could not carry on as usual, according to the Deutsche Welle report.

Meanwhile in neighboring France green groups demanded that their country end its reliance on nuclear energy, Reuters reported Saturday. "It's clear that when there's a significant natural disaster, all the so-called safety measures fail in a country with the highest level of technical know-how," Reuters quoted the head of France's Europe Ecologie-Les Verts party as saying.

The Times of India reported increased agitation in India as well, where residents have been protesting a proposed nuclear power plant in Jaitapur. Activists said that the situation in Japan confirmed their fears of the danger posed by nuclear power plants.

And in the U.S., Rep. Edward J. Markey has called for a moratorium on building new nuclear reactors in earthquake prone areas as well as stronger containment systems for those reactors already in such seismically active areas, reported Stephanie Simon for The Wall Street Journal.

The effects of this catastrophe on the future of nuclear power could be far-reaching. Especially if a nuclear meltdown and large-scale radiation leakage occur in Japan, a country which is seen as "high-tech," the safety of nuclear power plants world-wide is likely to be called into question.

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This page contains a single entry by SR Miller published on March 12, 2011 10:58 PM.

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