COMMENTARY | The nuclear meltdown in Japan has become a greater crisis by the day. With the potential meltdown now ruled as a level six, according to Reuters, preventing total disaster is getting harder. In addition, it might be getting harder to avoid the implications for America’s energy policy. At the moment, President Barack Obama and Republicans still insist power plants can be clean and safe, but the Fukushima crisis could put more and more holes in that theory before long.
As Fukushima reaches a tipping point, more reports are coming in, which question how unpreventable this was. The earthquake and tsunami helped fuel this fire, but according to the Christian Science Monitor, the Japanese government and the plant owners are now being accused of cutting safety corners.
If the meltdown gets even more critical, blame for the tragedy will go beyond the earthquake and tsunami. The nuclear industry was dramatically changed by the Three Mile Island and Chernobyl incidents — and that was before 24 hours news cycles and the Internet came along.
Should more damaging rumors come in about the Japanese government, the industry and safety watchdogs, the issues will spread far beyond the Far East. In a time where America’s energy policy is so hotly debated, this problem stands to exacerbate the debate even further.
The President is standing by nuclear energy now, but doing so in the next few days, weeks and months may be difficult to defend. There are already major protests over state budgets and union rights, as taking to the streets is a popular option nowadays. Could that spirit spark a revival of the old 1970s and 1980s nuclear power protests?
The recent debate over energy policy has revolved around oil, and how much we can really use. Yet oil is a relatively new bogeyman of the energy issue, as nuclear plants set the bar decades ago. Now they may return to America soon, and set off another struggle over the nuclear industry at large.