The unfolding nuclear crisis in Fukushima has raised questions over the safety of atomic power, not only in Japan, but across the world.
The US is the globe’s biggest nuclear energy producer. Despite that, surfers in the seismically active state of California appeared unfazed by the power plant perched above them in San Onofre.
“Well, I’ve lived here for 25 years. And it’s always in the back of your mind that if an earthquake happens it can be a big danger. But as far as every day, I don’t feel any danger here. I know they test it and it’s pretty safe. I feel pretty safe. But I have just got my potassium iodine tablets in case there is a leak,” said one San Onofre resident.
But some people are not convinced that California is ready for what everyone calls the ‘Big One.‘
“They are saying this 10 foot wall is going to hold a tsunami but I think differently. I think a tsunami is going to go right on over that wall. And that’s for sure, especially if it’s a big one,“ said another local resident.
China is rolling out nuclear power plants faster than any other country. It currently has 13 working reactors with dozens more in the pipeline.
Some believe Japan’s crisis should serve as a warning to energy-hungry China with rapid expansion posing safety risks.
“With such high speed development, I think it’s difficult for the government to supervise it properly. The plants’ construction and design, as well as their operation, could all have a lot of problems,” said Han Xiaoping of energy consultancy China Energy.
In Europe, Germany has said it will take seven of its 17 nuclear reactors temporarily out of service following the events in Japan. They will close for three months while Berlin reconsiders its atomic power plans.
The reactors being shut down all went into operation more than 30 years ago. One of those is the Neckarwestheim power plant and a woman who lives close by said: “We have the strange feeling living near such an old nuclear plant. Neckerwestheim I has been online for 35 years now and me and my husband are of the opinion that it must be switched off. There are enough alternative energies like water power and solar energy.”
But the champion of atomic power in Europe remains France. Nearly 80 percent of its electricity is generated this way. The government insists nuclear is the only option for the country’s energy needs. It means those who live close to a plant must be ready, just in case something should go wrong.
Japan's nuclear crisis sparks energy rethink