Roundup: Global Reaction to Nuclear Crisis in Japan

The ongoing nuclear crisis in Japan is causing political effects around the world, particularly in Europe, with several countries putting on hold plans to build new reactors or let existing ones run longer. Other leaders, however, cautioned against hasty reactions to Japan's troubles.

In Switzerland, Federal Council member Doris Leuthard announced today (English version) that the ongoing process for finding a site for three new nuclear power plants was on hold pending new safety assessments.

In Germany, where public opinion is generally opposed to nuclear power, Chancellor Angela Merkel suspended for 3 months a newly enacted law covering the country's nuclear power industry. That may mean that several of the country's 17 nuclear reactors will be taken offline in the coming weeks. Merkel said at a press conference this afternoon that she would meet tomorrow morning with state leaders to discuss concrete steps, including taking some of the oldest reactors offline. "We have to have an honest discussion about energy" during the 3-month moratorium, she said. "We need to reach the age of renewable energy as quickly as possible," she said. Importing nuclear-generated energy from "neighbors with lower safety standards than Germany" is not a viable option. She also noted, however, that shutting down several of the country's oldest reactors would not cause any electricity shortages.

Italian opponents of plans to build the country's first nuclear plants have been strengthened by the ongoing crisis.

A referendum is scheduled to begin next month on whether the country should return to generating nuclear power. A 1987 referendum approved a phase-out that shut down the Italy's last reactor in 1990.

In Poland, in contrast, Prime Minister Donald Tusk said that Poland "is not in a seismically active zone," and would not reconsider its plans to build the country's first nuclear power plant near Danzig. AFP reported, however, that Environment minister Janusz Zaleski told his E.U. counterparts in Brussels that events in Japan "would prompt debate" in Poland.

The United Kingdom, which last year promised to make it easier for nuclear reactors to be built but also said that it wouldn't provide any money for their construction, today announced a new nuclear safety review in light of the events in Japan.

Posted in Physics, Policy Japan Quake 2011