Three months after Japan’s largest earthquake, a major nuclear reactor disaster seems to have been avoided. However, major doubts surrounding nuclear energy as a safe power source remain in countries around the world. If these doubts linger, the energy industry can be changed dramatically with this significant loss of faith in nuclear energy. Alternative energy sources must be able to replace nuclear energy and many countries will have to develop efficient and sustainable infrastructures to support this energy change.
Nuclear power’s future in the United States and Europe looks uncertain with countries like Germany making plans to entirely cut the use of nuclear energy. Asia may be nuclear energy’s last hope in remaining a major power source. In China, construction of new nuclear plants is continuing and improvements to make these plants safer are continually carried out. These nuclear plants also undergo constant inspections and assessments to ensure safety. With China’s growing economy and enormous population, nuclear power may be the only way to go. China currently has 13 nuclear reactor units in operation and 28 under construction.
Other countries seem to be losing hope in nuclear energy. France is the world’s most nuclear dependent country with 80 percent of its power coming from nuclear energy. However, an opinion survey found that more than three-quarters of respondents supported a withdrawal from nuclear power over the next 25 years. Only 22 percent of survey takers supported the building of new nuclear power plants and 15 percent backed a quick end to the use of nuclear energy. Much of the same is happening in the United States. Last February, President Obama called for $36 billion in federal loans for new nuclear reactors. But by March after the disaster in Japan, Obama was ordering a “comprehensive review of the safety of our domestic nuclear plants.”
Nuclear energy faces a tough future and if countries cut the use of nuclear power, adequate replacements must be found. Whether it’s renewable energy sources like wind power or nonrenewable sources like natural gas, these energy alternatives will have to compensate for the major loss of nuclear energy.