I thought Japan’s 2011 Fukushima nuclear plant meltdown would have sealed nuclear power’s fate, but I keep hearing otherwise. Can you enlighten?
— Jacob Allen, New York, NY
The 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster did cause many nations to reconsider their nuclear committments, though many European countries—Switzerland, Belgium, Austria, Germany, Italy, Spain and Sweden—had already begun phasing out nuclear power decades earlier. After Fukushima, Germany, Belgium and Switzerland all moved to decommission their nuclear facilities altogether by 2022, 2025 and 2034 respectively.
Japan’s nuclear program, which provided 30 percent of the country’s electricity needs before the March 2011 disaster, is now essentially non-operational due to public safety concerns. Furthermore, Japan announced in November 2013 that, due to the shuttering of Fukushima and other nuclear facilities, it was backpedaling its on prior commitments to cut greenhouse gas emissions 25 percent from 1990 levels.
Here in the U.S., Fukushima has not had …