The White House released a statement Sunday offering support for the people of Japan which included this:
The U.S. Ambassador declared an emergency which opened up an immediate funding of $100K from USAID’s Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance. They set up a Response Management Team in DC and sent a Disaster Assistance Response Team to Tokyo, which includes people with nuclear expertise from the Departments of Energy and Health and Human Services as well the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC). The NRC members are experts in boiling water nuclear reactors and are available to assist their Japanese counterparts.
Reliable news on the precise state of Japan's Fukushima nuclear facilities has been hard to come by, suggesting solid info is scarce and what is available is subject to both spin and speculation. Throughout the weekend mixed reports of a possible fuel melt, and updates/corrections on same from Japanese officials and nuclear experts, swirled around the media landscape like smoke from the damaged unit. SciAm has a review of worst case scenarios, and Kbman wrote this nformative diary here on what a nuclear meltdown might mean.
Nuclear power brings up intense debate on a variety of fronts and touches on several fundamental energy vs environmental policy issues. My personal view is current commercial reactor designs are expensive, suffer from regulatory issues, and carry a potentially substantial and equally irreducible element of risk. In fairness, the same could be said of other energy sources we rely on such as oil and coal.
But even if newer designs were to prove viable and safer, the capacity of Big Business, and especially the energy industry, to arbitrarily write, rewrite, avoid, evade, and even ignore regulations on a whim is a real concern when considering the large scale implementation of next generation nuclear power.