Nuclear Power Still Under Fire in Wake of Japanese Crisis

Japan has 54 commercial reactors and 35 remain shut down following the March 11 earthquake and tsunami. There have been power reductions and it could lead to blackouts as demand increases during the summer.

Japan’s trade and energy minister, Banri Kaieda, and other government officials have made a trip to the southern prefecture of Saga today in the hopes of convincing local officials that nearby nuclear reactors can be restarted.

However, 70 percent of Japanese people are opposed to restarting the reactors. And there’s news that 15 people have tested positive for internal radiation exposure. Protests in the country also continue.

In addition to the issues directly related to the reactors themselves, the spokesperson for the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency, Hidehiko Nishiyama, has been replaced after rumors he was having an affair with another official in the group.

With all of the dangers posed by Japan’s nuclear reactors, it should be expected that the country’s nuclear industry would be faced with a crisis. The industry isn’t helped by scandal on the side.

But the nuclear industry in this country has also been impacted by the fears of now-jittery consumers as well. In the weeks following March 11, an industry expert said, “Nuclear power remains a mystery to most people. Despite its many advantages, poor PR has always blighted the nuclear power industry. Perhaps it always will.”

This week, here in the U.S., the Nuclear Regulatory Commission is taking another look at safety regulations. With the presidential election starting to heat up, energy and energy policy has become one of the topics of discussion. Today, the Department of Energy is having a 2 p.m. ET live chat to talk about clean energy.

Publicists working with the energy industry will likely have a busy summer, with work that taps into a variety of areas — crisis communications, messaging and branding, and public affairs among them. For nuclear energy specifically, PR is playing a role in what could be a watershed moment.