Nuclear stocks drop in the US after Japan quake

By Laura Brown - 14 Mar 2011 14:56:0 GMT
Nuclear stocks drop in the US after Japan quake

Japan earthquake means honeymoon is over for nuclear power in the US.

A second explosion at Japan's Fukushima nuclear plants is causing global concern and raising questions about the ability of similar plants around the globe to withstand strong earthquakes

In the US, a senator is calling for a complete review of the safety and emergency measures of nuclear plants across the country in case a similar sized quake were to hit America.

The death toll in Japan is estimated to exceed 10,000 after the largest earthquake in its history hit off the north-east coast. The subsequent tsunami has devastated towns and countryside. After the 8.9 magnitude earthquake, focus quickly turned to the potential damage caused to the Fukushima nuclear plant.

An explosion on Saturday, followed by a second today (Monday 14 March) have been caused as hydrogen escapes from damaged reactors. Teams of workers are attempting to cool the systems by flooding them with seawater, but experts warn this can take several days. Thousands of people have been evacuated from the area and the government is warning the population of the risk of radiation poisoning. If the reactants are not cooled, they risk damaging the containment, potentially leading to a meltdown.

The explosions and battle to bring the plants back to normality has led to a resurgence of the debate surrounding the safety of nuclear power. Japan’s Prime Minister has described it as the country's worst crisis since WW2. The thinktank, The Center for Environment, Commerce and Energy says the explosions are ''putting the spotlight on the nuclear power plants due to fears of a dangerous leak''.

Nuclear stocks are dropping in markets across the world. There are fears the crisis will put the brakes on nuclear programmes in the region.

Analyst Alex Barnett says, ''The severe nuclear incident in Japan has put a global nuclear renaissance into question''.

Meanwhile Two US Senators say the crisis in Japan should force the US to reconsider the building of new nuclear plants. Jon Lieberman, an independent from Connecticut told CBS' Face The Nation America ''needs to put the brakes on (plant construction)'' as the country absorbs what has happened in Japan. The senator chairs the Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee and has been a backer of nuclear power.

Democrat Ed Markey from Massachusetts has warned the same crisis could happen in the US and is calling for a moratorium on any plants to be built in seismically active areas until a review of seismic and tsunami reactor design resiliency' emergency response and evacuation plans is completed.

He added, ''The unfolding disaster in Japan must produce a seismic shift in how we address nuclear safety here in America''.