While it is undeniably horrifying to think of the number of people who lost their lives after the 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Japan, the implications of the destruction of the nuclear plant will be felt long past this date. Germany, China, and Venezuela have announced that they will halt large parts of their nuclear programs. The question that remains is: If they do not have energy coming from nuclear power, then where is the energy going to come from?
One choice that may be opted for is renewable energy (solar and wind). While these types of technologies could (and may) replace nuclear power, the problem with this idea is the lack of current infrastructure. Where are these countries going to install clean, renewable energy plants overnight? Chances are, either nuclear power will be kept on the table for a short time to make the transition, or else the fossil fuel industries will win big. The only viable alternatives to nuclear and clean renewable energies are coal, gas, and hydroelectric; but these alternatives are all environmentally damaging. Something will need to fill the energy gap; and whatever that something is, will very likely drive up prices in that industry. If energy prices rise, the cost of living goes up. The cost of other goods and services may rise, as well, to cover increased overhead costs.
So, while shutting down nuclear power may look like a good idea now, the end result could be worse for a time before it gets better. I think the most responsible decision would involve setting up clean renewable energy plants that are ready to go before all these nuclear facilities go offline. Just because there is a problem in Japan does not mean there will be the same problems everywhere all at once. Emotions are high–and so they should be after such tragedy–but coming at things clear, and collected will yield the most reasonable result.
May our hearts be with those who have lost those dear to them; but may our minds remain calm and our decisions surefooted.
~Justin Allen Philcox