Anyone anticipating the nuclear industry's demise as a result of Japan's disaster ultimately will be disappointed.
Any setbacks in development of new reactors are temporary, as they proved to be in the wake of Three Mile Island and Chernobyl.
The Three Mile Island accident, of course, was far from disaster, but now is not the time to tout nuclear energy's safety record.
The events in Japan are unfolding so fast that speculation about the consequences almost is meaningless. At a minimum, the crisis is severe. The potential for catastrophe is real.
But the realities driving development of nuclear power remain unchanged.
The human condition, plagued by poverty and hunger throughout most of the planet, cannot be significantly improved without abundant energy.
And supplying that energy depends on nuclear power. No better technology exists for a long-term solution.
Alternatives either are in finite supply, spew greenhouse gases and pollutants into the environment, are incapable of reliably producing adequate quantities of electricity or suffer from some combination of the above.
The threat posed by the heavily damaged Fukushima Daiichi nuclear complex will win new converts to the anti-nuclear movement.
But the hunger for power eventually will outweigh fear as steps are made to improve safety and the differences between modern designs and the aging Fukushima plants become clearer.
Even as nuclear workers in Japan fought to stem the spread of radiation from reactors damaged by the recent earthquake and tsunami, Chile and the United States were signing a nuclear energy agreement.
Chile isn't close to ordering a new reactor, and the country's nuclear program is sure to be slowed by events in Japan. Still, the interest indicated by the pact is significant.
Frankly, some delay in the nuclear renaissance makes sense while the industry determines the lessons to be learned from Japan's troubles and adopts appropriate design and procedural changes.
Even at this early stage, some issues already are clear.
The New York Times reported Friday that much of the danger in Japan is directly tied to years of procrastination in deciding on long-term disposal of spent nuclear fuel.
Officials from the Tokyo Electric Power Co. told the Times that 11,125 spent fuel rod assemblies were stored in cooling ponds at the site. That is about four times as much radioactive material as in the reactor cores combined.
With the water in the pools either boiling away or leaking out of their containment following the devastating earthquake and tsunami, the used fuel poses the greatest environmental risk.
The U.S. has long faced the same dilemma, recently exacerbated by the Obama administration's decision to abandon plans for a geological repository for nuclear wastes at Yucca Mountain, Nev.
An easy way to improve safety at America's reactors would be to rescind that misguided notion and allow the licensing process for Yucca Mountain to proceed.
It also is apparent that much -- perhaps all -- of what's gone wrong at Japan's 40-year-old complex couldn't happen in more modern plants.
Operations could be made even safer by reactor designs that incorporate so-called passive safety measures, which work even if power and operating staff aren't available.
The Westinghouse AP1000, for example, would use gravity to automatically pour enough water over the reactor to cool the fuel in an emergency. Even safer designs are in development.
Risks will continue to diminish, but never reach zero.
For most of the world -- concerned about global warming, unstable energy supplies and crippling poverty -- that ultimately will prove to be good enough.