Japan’s Nuclear Morality Tale

NEW DELHI – The troubles of the Fukushima nuclear-power plant – and other reactors – in northeast Japan have dealt a severe blow to the global nuclear industry, a powerful cartel of less than a dozen major state-owned or state-guided firms that have been trumpeting a nuclear-power renaissance.

But the risks that seaside reactors like Fukushima face from natural disasters are well known. Indeed, they became evident six years ago, when the Indian Ocean tsunami in December 2004 inundated India’s second-largest nuclear complex, shutting down the Madras power station.

Many nuclear-power plants are located along coastlines, because they are highly water-intensive. Yet natural disasters like storms, hurricanes, and tsunamis are becoming more common, owing to climate change, which will also cause a rise in ocean levels, making seaside reactors even more vulnerable.

For example, many nuclear-power plants located along the British coast are just a few meters above sea level. In 1992, Hurricane Andrew caused significant damage at the Turkey Point nuclear-power plant on Biscayne Bay, Florida, but, fortunately, not to any critical systems.