In the wake of Japan’s devastating earthquake and tsunami, there remains a great deal of uncertainty about what kind of damage has been done to several of the country’s nuclear energy plants and what the potential outcome of that damage will be.
Although the nuclear reactor crisis in Japan will likely launch a debate about safety, there are stark differences between Japan and the United States in the environmental scenarios that must be considered when designing U.S. nuclear reactors.
If nuclear plants damaged in Japan's recent earthquake cannot be cooled and their cores begin to melt, it could potentially cause one of the most serious nuclear accidents in history.
Japanese engineers are attempting to find ways to cool the nuclear reactor core at Japan's Fukushima Daiichi reactors, in order to prevent a nuclear meltdown.
While passive safety features ensured that Japan's Fukushima reactors automatically shut off after the earthquake struck, the core remains hot even after the nuclear chain reaction ceases. If the core cannot be cooled, there could be potentially dangerous repercussions.
Although Japan's nuclear reactors in Fukushima have shut down, the fuel rods remain hot. If the coolant system does not function properly, the fuel rods could overheat, posing a real danger.
Although Japan's Fukushima reactors have been shut down, their fuel rods still need to cool down, so that the remaining water meant to cool the core does not boil and expose the radioactive rods.
As Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt embark on optimistic nuclear energy programs, these nations must also take into consideration the shortage of nuclear industry scientists and personnel as well as the necessity of solutions for the resulting waste.
With the U.S.-South Korea bilateral nuclear cooperation agreement set to expire in 2014, it will be difficult for the United States to refuse Seoul's push to renegotiate without damaging the broader U.S.-South Korean relationship.
In spite of the fact that nuclear reprocessing continues to pose a number of economic and nonproliferation challenges, this process remains a significant factor in the current and future nuclear power plans of a number of nations