Not all natural catastrophes are as "natural" as they appear: the mega earthquake and tsunami in Japan may be as natural as they come, but the ongoing nuclear disaster is anything but.
What has apparently happened is that, while reactors were properly and safely shut down after the quake, the systems required to cool down their 6% residual fission had to operate on power supplied by diesel generators which, however, were flooded by the tsunami and immediately knocked-out. Oh yeah, they were NOT located on high ground, the plant designers relying instead on a seawall to protect them (ask any ship architect where emergency generators must be placed).
Then again, such monster 10 meter tsunami waves were not supposed to happen, right..? Now, does this ring the Nuclear Hubris Bell, or what?
(If you do anything in the aftermath of this, I insist it is to read and apply Nicholas Taleb's extremely appropriately titled The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable: With a new section: "On Robustness and Fragility.")
Or, does it remind us of that other three-sigma event that was also never supposed to happen? You know what I'm talking about: the sudden collapse of investment-grade alphabet-soup bonds, which were transmuted from toxic waste into "ultra-safe" investments.
Before the global financial crisis hit, I often compared the debt and derivatives situation to a chemical (or nuclear) reaction approaching a "critical" point. Such a reaction may proceed for quite some time without any adverse effects, but if left unchecked it can create an explosion within a split second.
A Graphic Representation of A Critical Reaction
High debt and nuclear power have something in common: they are inherently unstable, so no matter how "robust" you try to make their containment systems they can never be 100% safe. Furthermore, the adverse effects from three-sigma accidents involving them are obviously widespread and dangerous to the extreme.
So, why do we keep using them? Why do we still fuel our Permagrowth economy with Debt and Nukes, instead of earned income and renewable energy? I shall leave the answer to others, but I firmly believe it to be a huge mistake.