In short, the incident made clear that nuclear energy is by no means the modern, well-organized, high-tech sector portrayed until recently by politicians and industry advocates. Indeed, the frequency of problems occurring at Germany's aging reactors is on the rise. Just as old cars succumb to rust, nuclear power plants built in the 1970s and '80s are undergoing a natural aging process.
On Wednesday, the chief executive of Vattenfall Europe AG stepped down. Klaus Rauscher was the second manager to depart this week amid mounting criticism for the utility's handling of a fire at a nuclear plant in northern Germany, reports the AP.
"When it comes to security at nuclear power plants, I can only say, that when it comes to the information policy, this really has not been acceptable and therefore my sympathy for the industry is limited," Chancellor Angela Merkel said.
Merkel, a physicist by training, normally favors nuclear power, but the June 28 fire at the Kruemmel plant, near Hamburg, has put the industry in a bad light.
Still, nuclear power has won some powerful allies in the environmental community, writes E Magazine editor Jim Motavalli on the website AlterNet.
He quotes Fred Krupp, president of Environmental Defense, as saying, "We should all keep an open mind about nuclear power." Jared Diamond, best-selling author of "Collapse," adds, "To deal with our energy problems we need everything available to us, including nuclear power," which, he says, should be "done carefully, like they do in France, where there have been no accidents."