Have these events changed my opinion that nuclear power should play a significant role in our future energy supply? No. To quote Lewis Page of The Register “Operating nuclear power stations is not just very safe, or safer than other methods of generating power. It has to be one of the safest forms of activity undertaken by the human race.”.
This may be a controversial view, but when you look at the outcome of the Tōhoku earthquake, some 28,000 people are estimated to have died. In comparison, any deaths from Fukushima would pale into insignificance (not that I expect any). It should also be remembered that no modern design would have ANY of the problems experienced at Fukushima, which is a 1960′s design, built on a site with fundamental weaknesses (seawall too low, no provision for site inundation, no provision for regional infrastructure collapse). Again, no modern design would have these flaws.
In fairness to TEPCO and the Japanese authorities, the site WAS prepared for both earthquakes and tsunamis. But it was designed in the 1970s before plate tectonics and megathrust earthquakes were properly understood . . . I’ll be very interested to see over the next months and years whether they had had plans in place to upgrade (or close) the site.
The main thing Fukushima highlights for me is the woeful lack of understanding of science within the media. ALL the early coverage of the events was riddled with sensational alarmist reporting which even a minimal understanding of science and a bit of googling would have quashed.