现代史上有两起重大核电站事故。1979年，美国三里岛(Three Mile Island)核电站几乎发生核反应堆熔毁；7年后，乌克兰的切尔诺贝利(Chernobyl)核电站发生爆炸。这两起事故都导致人们对核电的支持率大幅下滑。
There have been two significant accidents at nuclear power plants in modern history. A near-meltdown at Three Mile Island in 1979 was followed seven years later by an explosion at Chernobyl in Ukraine. Both led to sharp declines in support for nuclear power.
It is too early to say what impact the failure at Fukushima in Japan may have. The authorities are still battling to make the plant safe after earthquake damage caused the cooling system to fail in two reactors, damaging their cores. But already the world has seen chilling images of explosions at the facility, and stories are circulating about workers having been exposed to radiation. A catastrophic meltdown is a sombre possibility.
So far, the authorities have been relatively open. They have also been decisive; evacuating people and flooding reactors with seawater to contain the build-up of heat.
But nuclear accidents, like terrorist attacks, tap into a deep seam of dread in the public’s consciousness. This may explain why the small number of casualties at Fukushima has attracted such attention at a time when more than 10,000 people may have lost their lives in the wider inundation.
The nuclear industry has had a fair safety record since Chernobyl. This is partly due to better design and monitoring. This improvement has combined with growing concern about climate change to encourage western governments to look again at building reactors. Developing nations, impelled more by the hunger for energy security, are building fast.
Nuclear power should have a part to play in cutting carbon emissions. But safety fears could kill its revival – at least in the west. Although support for new nuclear construction has been creeping up in the US and Europe, it remains brittle. Even one serious accident could shatter it.
After Chernobyl, the International Atomic Energy Agency introduced tighter standards. More than two decades on, these remain voluntary. This is anachronistic now that the industry is expanding especially in developing nations where public opinion may not constrain construction. Steps should be taken to ensure nuclear newcomers run their plants safely. Fukushima is a reminder how difficult it is to control the forces unleashed when reactors fail.
Nuclear accidents are no respecters of boundaries. Japan is far from the only earthquake-prone country to harness nuclear technology. We live in a nuclear world. We must ensure facilities are run safely, wherever they are built.
2011-03-15 14:02 编辑：kuaileyingyu
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