The long gas lines caused by the 1973 Arab Embargo touched off a backlash that rippled throughout the world.
The embargo was a response to American involvement in the 1973 Yom Kippur War. Egypt and Syria had launched a surprise military campaign against Israel, prompting the US to supply Israel with arms. In response the Organization of Arab Petroleum Exporting Countries (OAPEC) announced an oil embargo against Canada, Japan, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom and the US. Overnight, gas prices quadrupled and long lines at gas stations became common.
The public was ready for radical change and it would first come in the form of oil-free energy.
Nuclear energy seemed a panacea. We were told in the 50s and 60s that clean, pollution free energy was just around the corner and power generating stations began sprouting like spring onions.
In 1974 Three Mile Island nuclear power plant, located on the Susquehanna River, south of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, began generating pollution-free electricity for the east coast of the United States. Five years later, on March 28, 1979, in reactor number 2, disaster struck. A partial nuclear meltdown occurred, the worst in US history. Seven years later, on 26 April 1986, Chernobyl melted down. 31 people died immediately, another 200,000 suffered varying degrees of radiation poisoning.
The fallout from these accidents soured many on the idea of nuclear energy. Later worries of the radioactive waste material and its disposal brought more concerns and a large scale anti-nuclear movement had surfaced. Some countries, like France, kept with their nuclear programs. Today, 75% of the electricity generated in France comes from nuclear—and they are the world’s largest electricity exporter.
In France, nuclear works, and they have been without accidents.
But does that mean nuclear energy is the answer to Earth’s Carbon Crisis?