Commentary: The future of nuclear power

The chilling sight of explosions at several Japanese reactors — and the release of dangerous radiation from them — will slow efforts to revive the nuclear power industry in the United States and to expand it around the globe. That is appropriate.

In Washington, Congress should pull back from approving more federal loan guarantees worth billions of dollars, as requested by President Barack Obama, for utilities that want to build new reactors. Missouri has been on the list of possible expansion sites in recent years.

The Star has long supported nuclear power as part of the energy mix for Americans, along with conservation, cleaner coal, natural gas and — especially — an increased amount of renewable power such as wind.

However, the federal government still hasn’t provided a safe, final resting place for high-level nuclear waste and likely won’t for at least another decade. That leaves dangerous waste sitting at dozens of plants, vulnerable to terrorist attack or natural disasters such as earthquakes.

The Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank, on Monday issued a statement typical of the industry’s defenders, noting, “Events unfolding in Japan ought to have no impact on the current U.S. reactor fleet or future plans to expand that fleet.” Other boosters say future U.S. plants would be better designed than the ones now in trouble in Japan.

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