I have to break my self-imposed silence again.
I don’t pay much attention to newspapers or television news. By definition, the only things they’ll air are bad news (“if it bleeds, it leads”), which gives an extremely warped and unnecessarily depressing view of the world. What little I’ve seen of their reporting on the situation at the six damaged nuclear power plants in Fukushima, Japan, after the recent earthquake and tsunami, just proves the point.
From everything I’ve seen, those power plants dealt with the problems staggeringly well:
The reactors involved are a 40-year-old design and much less safe than modern ones. They were hit by an earthquake five times as strong as they were built to take, followed by a tsunami wave now assessed as having being more than 12 metres high – twice the height their defences were specified to withstand. It now appears that despite all this they have not and will not harm a hair on anyone’s head radiologically. Even everyday physical-trauma casualties have been very low compared to those seen elsewhere in the disaster zone. […] Operating nuclear power stations is not just very safe, or safer than other methods of generating power. It has to be one of the safest forms of activity undertaken by the human race.
That said, nuclear power isn’t really going to be hurt by the scaremongering and ignorance. Japan is going to continue using it because they have little choice, and most other places aren’t likely to, at least in the near future, for unrelated economic reasons.