Despite the sturm-und-drang and political posturing about the Fukushima nuclear disaster, the event won't do much to change the basic political economy of atomic energy
From virtually the moment that reports first hit the international media that there were problems at the Fukushima nuclear plants, speculation about the impact that the accident would have upon the future of nuclear power overwhelmed accurate information about the actual nature and severity of the accident.
While the full extent of the accident is still unclear and may remain so for many weeks or months, one thing is clear and has been since the very earliest reports of trouble. The public health, economic, and environmental impacts of the Fukushima accident will pale beside those of the natural disaster that caused it. Total fatalities resulting from the earthquake and tsunami will likely exceed 20,000 and has left close to a half million people homeless. The economic loss associated with the disaster has been estimated at up to $300 billion. The tsunami has scattered the civilizational detritus of what was much of northeastern Japan over a landscape of hundreds of square miles.
Even in the worst case, involving the full meltdown of multiple reactors and a significant breach of containment, there are no credible scenarios wherein the Fukushima accident could conceivably have racked up a similar human, economic, or environmental toll. Nonetheless, Fukushima was the worst nuclear accident since Chernobyl and anti-nuclear activists were quick to make the comparison. Never mind that the Chernobyl disaster resulted from an explosive fire at an uncontained reactor of a far more dangerous design that exposed vastly more people to vastly more radiation than Fukushima could ever possibly result in.