Lessons

Nuclear Disaster Could Happen in U.S.

A nuclear crisis like Japan’s could happen in the U.S., writes Frank N. von Hippel, co-chairman of the International Panel on Fissile Materials, and the most important way to prevent it is to reform the industry-regulator relationship. “Nuclear power is a textbook example of the problem of ‘regulatory capture, — in which an industry gains control of an agency meant to regulate it,” writes Hippel in The New York Times. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission follows the nuclear industry’s lead in rejecting new safety measures, measures that would greatly reduce the amount of radiation emitted in a Fukushima-like crisis. But the current problems with nuclear safety regulation in the United States shouldn’t be seen as a reason to give up on nuclear energy. It’s “climate friendly,” new reactor designs will make it safer, and it’s less dangerous than coal, which kills 10,000 people in the United States per year from air pollution. “We therefore must make existing reactors safer, develop a new generation of safer designs and prevent nuclear power from facilitating nuclear proliferation,” writes Hippel. “As tragic as the Fukushima disaster has been, it has provided a rare opportunity to advance those goals.”