George Monbiot, the UK journalist, is usually so reliably on the left, beyond reason or sense, that the term “moonbat” was originally coined as a play on his name. None the less, even he gets what the real message of the Fukushima reactors has been:
You will not be surprised to hear that the events in Japan have changed my view of nuclear power. You will be surprised to hear how they have changed it. As a result of the disaster at Fukushima, I am no longer nuclear-neutral. I now support the technology.
Now, the next paragraphs are just wrong, in the way only a journalist who thinks engineers are lower life forms can be:
A crappy old plant with inadequate safety features was hit by a monster earthquake and a vast tsunami. The electricity supply failed, knocking out the cooling system. The reactors began to explode and melt down. The disaster exposed a familiar legacy of poor design and corner-cutting. Yet, as far as we know, no one has yet received a lethal dose of radiation.
There are a great number of major and minor misstatements in that one paragraph, that come down to this:
Japan’s NHK broadcasting network reported that Tokyo Electric Power Co. confirmed that the March 11 earthquake and tsunami were beyond the Fukushima Daiichi plant’s design standards.
TEPCO believes the tsunami that inundated the Fukushima Daiichi site was 14 meters high, the network said. The design basis tsunami for the site was 5.7 meters, and the reactors and backup power sources were located 10 to 13 meters above sea level. The company reported that the maximum earthquake for which the Fukushima Daiichi plants were designed was magnitude 8. The quake that struck March 11 was magnitude 9.
That now has the earthquake energy 32 times higher than designed for, the tsunami more than twice what was designed for. The reports of TEPCO failing some safety inspection items were things like not filing the right inspection paperwork on a piece of equipment; even when the equipment was a backup diesel generator, having had the right paperwork wouldn’t keep the backup from being swept away by a 14 meter tsunami.
But still, in general, once you overlook Monbiot’s instinctive distase for people who have more money than he does, Monbiot gets it:
[T]here are no ideal solutions. Every energy technology carries a cost; so does the absence of energy technologies. Atomic energy has just been subjected to one of the harshest of possible tests, and the impact on people and the planet has been small. The crisis at Fukushima has converted me to the cause of nuclear power.
There’s no free lunch, but if you’re worried about the environment, atomic power is the cheap lunch.