"The nuclear industry likes to claim that each new reactor model is safer than the last. The unfolding nuclear emergency in Japan suggests otherwise.
A major source of the problems at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant is its inability to cool down its overheating reactors without electricity, which was knocked out by the earthquake and tsunami. Missing from most of Fukushima's reactors is a passive cooling system that operates without electricity. Phased out by General Electric just as Fukushima was being constructed in the early 1970s, the old system could have operated even after the earthquake and tsunami wiped out the plant's electrical supply and diesel generators. "It can go on essentially forever" without electricity, says Mujid Kazimi, a professor of nuclear engineering at MIT. If it had been in use at Fukushima, he adds, it could have significantly slowed down the plant's overheating problems."
Josh Harkinson reports for Mother Jones March 19, 2011.