Frontline: Nuclear Aftershocks
FRONTLINE correspondent Miles OBrien examines the implications of Japans Fukushima accident for U.S. nuclear safety, and asks how this disaster will affect the future of nuclear energy around the world. In particular, he visits one emerging battleground: The controversial relicensing of the Indian Point nuclear plant, located only 38 miles from Manhattan. What lessons can be learned from the disaster in Japan?
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"The world watched helplessly [on March 11, 2011] as a tsunami [a giant tidal wave caused by an earthquake] took down the Fukushima [Daiichi] nuclear power plant. What went wrong? And will it cripple Japan's nuclear program? The aftershocks of the meltdown [overheating] are reverberating around the world. [In this program, we also investigate] if America is ready for a nuclear disaster."
The above is what the narrator says in the introduction to this eye-opening documentary.
This documentary was an edition of the popular in-depth television documentary show "Frontline" that was televised on Jan. 17, 2012.
For those who don't know or are unsure, a nuclear reactor in a nuclear power plant works by fission. That is, works by splitting radioactive elements such as uranium and plutonium. That releases energy, which is used to turn water into steam. The steam is then forced through turbines to generate electricity. (Note that carbon isn't involved in the process at all which makes nuclear power essentially carbon-free. I say "essentially because nuclear power plants are massive installations constructed with lots of steel and concrete, so it takes plenty of energy from fossil fuels to build them.)
This program effectively answers the question:
"How could this [disaster] happen in Japan, a country so well-known for its technological and engineering brilliance?"
We get to see rare film footage shortly after the disaster--massive damage caused by explosions and the tsunami itself. The person taking this film footage describes what he was seeing as "scenery beyond my imagination."
It seems that the Fukushima disaster changed everything with regard to nuclear energy. As this program explains, Germany is now taking an energy gamble. It is set to shut down all of its 17 nuclear power plants as it transitions to renewables (such as wind and solar).
This program ends by investigating how safe U.S. nuclear energy is with its 104 nuclear reactors. A controversial, emerging battleground is the re-licensing of the Indian Point nuclear plant, located only about forty miles from the densely populated borough of Manhattan in New York City.
Finally, as for Japan, of its 54 nuclear reactors, only six remain operational. This is, understandably, because of public opposition to nuclear energy.
In conclusion, this is a fascinating but frightening documentary. Can we trust nuclear energy again?
(2012; 55 min; 7 scenes; wide screen; televised on PBS)
<<Stephen PLETKO, London, Ontario, Canada>>