From this week's Phoenix:
It may have receded from the headlines, but the crisis at Japan's Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power station continues.
from Fukushima that one month ago would have triggered international
alarm are today absorbed with barely an anxious shrug.
at least, seemed to be the reaction to the news when Japan's Nuclear
and Industrial Safety Agency recategorized the disaster, upgrading it
from level five to level seven.
to the International Nuclear Event Scale, that is as bad as officials
can imagine: "A major release of radioactive material with widespread
health and environmental effects."
have been only two level-seven incidents in nuclear history: the
Chernobyl catastrophe 25 years ago in the Ukraine and now Fukushima, on
the east coast of Japan.
Officials, however, may be running out of terminology with which to convey the still-unfolding seriousness of the situation.
from the earthquake that triggered the crisis continue to plague the
region, compromising the efforts of an army of workers laboring against
great odds to keep four cracked and crippled nuclear reactors from
Meanwhile, half a
world away, in the Gulf of Mexico, Cuba prepares to embark on a program
of deep-water oil exploration, raising concern about the possibility of
another environmental disaster of a magnitude similar to that caused
last year by BP.
America's Gulf oil
crisis clearly caused no agonizing reappraisals about deep-water
drilling among Cuban leaders. Given the shamefully lax regulation of
energy companies here in the United States, Washington is in no position
to lecture Cuba about safety standards. That, however, does not mean
there is not cause for worry.
The United States, indeed the rest of the world, needs to start thinking about energy in aggressively new ways.
the Fukushima tragedy, even if it gets worse, is unlikely to slow the
spread of nuclear power in expanding economies such as China and India,
to name just the two most obvious.
humanity will not curb its appetite for energy, it seems that the
minimally intelligent next move should be to seek to establish
international safety standards governing the extraction of natural
resources and the actual generation of power.
international safe-energy treaty will not, in and of itself, immunize
the planet from oil spills and nuclear meltdown. Past negligence in the
Gulf and the clear miscalculation in Japan of risk assessment are sad
testimony to that.
Humanity is too
often short-sighted and greedy, and the breed that runs the energy
cartels seems capable of a particularly loathsome kind of negligence.
to establish internationally enforceable standards for nuclear power
and deep-water drilling is not a cure-all, but it would be a step in the