"While the safety of nuclear power may be debated, more prescient for investors is the emotional reaction to nuclear accidents. We can recall that the Three Mile Island accident halted nuclear construction in the US, and Chernobyl essentially killed it. For parallels airliner accidents make headlines even though deaths per mile/km is much lower than it is for automobile travel. Similarly the attack of 9/11 tragically killed 2800 people, while in the 10 years since over 400,000 deaths resulted from automobile accidents and murders in the US, but we haven't spent $1Trillion preventing such deaths. There could very well be another nuclear "black swan" accident in the coming years given the age of the world's reactors and the need for utilities to make profits and perhaps cut some maintenance corners (how soon they forget). What that means, I think, is that investments in nuclear power are especially vulnerable to chance events."
"Coincidently to my previous message re: nuclear black swans, this article appeared in this morning's NY Times. If the meticulous, nuclear fallout conscious Japanese were slipshod over safety, what can we expect from other country's standards and regulation?"
David Fuller's view Thanks for your two emails and this article:
Dangers: Japanese Officials Ignored or Concealed Dangers."
I think your initial email above is a good summary of events. Yes, "investments in nuclear power are especially vulnerable to chance events", which happen to be very rare but are now in the process of being fully discounted by the market. As an advocate of nuclear power, I had expressed concern over old nuclear reactors before events in Japan, as you may recall, although I did not anticipate anything on the scale of Fukushima.
As I see it, the world needs nuclear power, especially if we want reliable, affordable and less carbon-dependent energy. The new generation of reactors are certainly much safer than their predecessors dating back to the 1960s. Today, scientists know considerably more about earthquakes, tsunamis and fault lines than several decades ago.
There is no such thing as a risk-free world. However, nuclear plants should obviously be sited well away from areas of known seismic activity or susceptibility to damage from tsunamis.