Ex-top U.S. nuclear regulator counsels end to atomic power


Staff Writer

The ongoing crisis at the Fukushima No. 1 plant is a sign that the world needs to seriously rethink nuclear safety and consider possibly ending its dependence on atomic power, the former chairman of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission said Tuesday in Tokyo.

“When you look at what happened around the Fukushima Daiichi (No. 1) area, it’s simply unacceptable,” as tens of thousands of people have been unable to return to their homes due to radioactive contamination, said Gregory Jaczko, who served as the top U.S. nuclear regulatory official for nearly three years until July 2012.

Given that Japan is extremely prone to earthquakes and tsunami, among other disasters, using nuclear power poses serious risks unless some kind of new technology is created to completely eliminate the possibility of severe accidents, Jaczko told reporters at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan.

However, Jaczko also said that creating such zero-risk technology is next to impossible.

Instead, Jaczko said, he hopes Japan pours its resources and energy into coming up with ways to function without atomic power.

“I think the Japanese people have the ability to do that,” he said.

While Japan’s atomic watchdog, the Nuclear Regulation Authority, is now examining requests from utilities to restart reactors, Jaczko stressed the importance of getting the public actively involved in the process.

“There needs to be a thorough public debate and a public dialogue to ensure that those decisions” have received as much support from the public as possible, said Jaczko, who headed the NRC when the Fukushima crisis erupted on March 11, 2011.

As for the ongoing issue of tainted groundwater flowing into the ocean at the No. 1 plant, Jaczko expressed befuddlement that the issue has only recently come under the spotlight.

“This was known from the beginning that there would potentially be these contamination problems,” he said.

  • http://www.jaapdenhaan.blogspot.nl/ JAHAAN

    There is no solution for the storage of radioactive waste. I have read that only after 241,000 years radiation may have declined to a safe level. Basing their risk on experience, insurance companies have never insured against an accident. People have neither been objectively informed nor allowed to choose about their own safety. Yet they pay taxes for the nuclear industry and their risk, which is the most important reason why that seems to be cheaper than the alternatives.

  • Richard Wilcox

    What vigorous democracy in Japan? A nation of obedient sheep that would make Orwell cringe.

  • midnightbrewer

    An amazing number of safe nuclear plant designs have been created over the last few decades. Any number of them would be fine to use in Japan. Japan’s problem is that Fukushima was forty years old and due for decommission. So yes, if you willingly continue to use something beyond its lifespan you’re bound to have problems. There’s no need to throw the baby out with the bathwater, though.

  • David E. Spence

    Short of shipping all the nuclear waste to the moon, there is no “good” way to dispose of it. And, with the proliferation of nuclear power around the world, especially into unstable countries and/or the higher risk of “accidents” (carelessness), AND the dangers associated with aging plants (yes, in the US of A, as well), nuclear power is NOT safe. To paraphrase, “Familiarity breeds carelessness.” We have had many, many years to think about and plan for safer power sources and we have squandered the time. The world DOES need to seriously work on phasing out nuclear power, period. In the end, there is no such thing as a “safe” nuclear power plant. This should be on the agenda of the UN.