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Japan: Nuclear over-reactors

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22 March 2011 11:51

I'm told last night's Four Corners took a slightly alarmist view of the nuclear power industry in the wake of events at the Fukushima reactor.

The program ended with an interview with the Lowy Institute's newest visiting fellow, John Carlson, who was Director General of the Australian Safeguards and Non-Proliferation Office from 1989 to 2010. Carlson's voice of moderation evidently surprised Four Corners host Kerry O'Brien:

KERRY O'BRIEN: John Carlson, what is your worst fear scenario related to civilian run, or nuclear power plants run for civilian purposes'

JOHN CARLSON, AUST. NUCLEAR SAFEGUARDS OFFICE 1989-2010: I think we've just about seen it, Kerry. I can't imagine anything worse happening. People think back to the Chernobyl accident and a number of commentators were predicting that this would be like Chernobyl. The technologies are just so different and the driver for releasing large amounts of radiation simply isn't there with like water reactors.

So I think, basically, we've seen the worst scenario and it's turned out to be not the nightmare that many people thought it could be. That's certainly not to be complacent and clearly there's going to be a lot of work analysing what happened and learning and improving safety systems but I think basically the technology has shown itself to be very robust.

KERRY O'BRIEN: Really' You can say that, robust, given the pictures we've seen, the explosions that took place'

JOHN CARLSON: Well, you have to look at in terms of two things - first of all, what was the actual impact on public safety' And secondly, I think in any kind of analysis we do of nuclear energy we have to compare it with other energy sources and the risks and benefits and limitations of other energy sources.

Full program transcript here.

The Nuclear Reactions column is supported by the Nuclear Security Project of the Nuclear Threat Initiative, as part of a wider partnership between the NSP and the Lowy Institute. Photo by Flickr user Gonzalo Deniz.

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