From the article:
Nuclear reactors generate heat that produces electricity when uranium atoms split. In the reactor core, uranium is kept in water to prevent it from overheating, melting down and releasing radiation.
A meltdown by itself typically would not be disastrous because the reactor sits in a concrete containment structure to prevent radiation from escaping.
However, a meltdown could cause a buildup of temperature and pressure that ruptures the containment building. A massive release of radioactive gas into a surrounding community could destroy or damage human cells and cause death or cancer.Lots of uncritical reporting from a recent Union of Concerned Scientists report, too. But note one bright spot in the UCS press release:
"The risks posed by global warming may turn out to be so grave that the United States and the world cannot afford to rule out a substantial expansion of nuclear power," said Dr. Gronlund."
Can you imagine a UCS scientist making this statement even five years ago? Perhaps there's hope for them after all. We should make every possible effort to build bridges with the open-minded and reasonable "nuclear power skeptics"- the long-term outcome of the current nuclear debate depends on it.