(How old is this nuclear plant in southeast France?) it's close to forty years old. Its risk is determined by something called the Bathtub Curve. The lefthand portion of the curve is its break-in portion whereas the righthand is its wearout portion. A 40 year old facility is absolutely at its wearout portion. The oddity of the situation is if they build a new plant, you would have to contend with its break in portion. (How long is the level out period?) It depends on how well you maintain the plant. (What do you think of viewing nuclear energy as an alternative to fossil fuels and how these events might change perceptions of nuclear power?) Nuclear power isn't zero risk, but it can be a manageable risk. What France is experiencing is when you let down your guard even for a moment. That same risk doesn't exist with something like wind power. (Have Americans let their guard down?) Yes, this seems more like when, as opposed to if. Most nuclear plants don't meet regulations that were adopted in 1980s. what's been lacking in recent legislation is improving regulation for nuclear plants, so we'll be faced with older plants that are wearing out and newer plants that need to be broken in.