Letters: The Safety Of Nuclear Energy

Talk of the Nation listeners wrote to the show to share how the tragedy in Japan has affected how they feel about nuclear power in the U.S. Some stand by nuclear power, though, of course, with a priority on safety, while others expressed uneasiness.

NEAL CONAN, host:

It's Tuesday, and time to read from your emails and Web comments.

Our discussion about nuclear energy and whether the disaster in Japan changed your mind sent many of you to your keyboards. Sarah McCarthy(ph) in Nevada City, California, wrote: I am relatively pro-nuclear. But while U.S. nuclear proponents have rushed to reassure Americans that something similar could not happen here, they are somewhat less than convincing. The operators of San Onofre and Diablo Canyon, both nuclear power plants, claim they are built to withstand any possible size of earthquake. One is designed to withstand a magnitude 7.0, the other a 7.5. What? These quake sizes could easily happen here.

And from Anne(ph) in Palo Alto, we had this comment: There have been many deaths in the United States from natural gas explosions, yet we do not call for the U.S. to stop using natural gas. The nuclear reactors in Japan are 40 years old, and newer designs are even safer. We should pursue nuclear power - although, of course, with maximum safety designs.

But like Terry Cheney(ph) in Minneapolis, many correspondents were still uneasy. I am still opposed to nuclear power after the recent events, he wrote. In Minnesota, we have two nuclear plants, one of which is storing dozens of dry casks on the banks of the Mississippi, and no storage solution in sight. What happened in Japan is just one more reason to oppose nuclear power. Why build new plants when we don't know what to do with the waste we already have? Frankly, this is reckless policy. A sensible energy policy would focus on renewable energy and conservation.

And, finally, this note from Joy Murphy(ph): I survived Three Mile Island, she wrote. I was in Pennsylvania during that scary time, and I strongly supported nuclear power until then. Just like today, we had very limited information. I can't believe it's no better 30-plus years ago. Nuclear power is so very dangerous if anything goes wrong. I cannot think of another technology that is as dangerous. The risk-benefit may weigh in favor of nuclear power on paper, but this risk is hard to watch and, unfortunately, people are fallible.

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