The admission by Japan's biggest operator of nuclear reactors that it has falsified safety data at its power plants raises serious concerns. Nuclear power has been embraced by many countries as a promising alternative to polluting coal- and oil-fuelled electricity plants. With other energy sources such as wind and solar not yet sufficiently technically advanced enough to be capable of producing large amounts of reliable electricity, the choice seems sound - assuming that safety standards are adhered to. But as the accident at the Chernobyl plant in Ukraine in 1986 showed, the consequences of not following the rules can be catastrophic; 9,000 people could eventually die of radiation-related cancers. There is a need to ensure reactors are built to safe designs and operated to strict standards. But transparency is also important. Tokyo Electric has admitted that safety data relating to its nuclear power plants has been faked to try to more easily pass compulsory government inspections. No firm involved in such a sensitive sector can afford to lower standards. For reasons of security, power plants - no matter how they are fuelled or in which country - are generally well protected. Because of the sensitivities of nuclear energy, there is an added layer of security. This is necessary: for one, the fuels used pose a health risk if mishandled; they could be used to make nuclear weapons if they fall into the hands of terrorists; and fears of another Chernobyl can make reactors near residential communities the target of protesters. That does not mean that atomic plants should also be shrouded in secrecy. The possibility of an accident is heightened if data is not faithfully recorded, inspections are lax or mishaps go unreported. Public faith in Japan's nuclear industry has been eroded through such revelations and a series of accidents in recent years, the latest on January 15 when four workers at a plant were splashed with radioactive water. The worst incident was in 2004, when five men died after a pipe burst. But nuclear power is safe if standards are high, as the example of France shows. There, 78 per cent of the power is nuclear-produced and the industry has suffered no serious mishaps among its 59 reactors. The mainland is already operating nine reactors, construction of two more is well advanced and work has begun on four others. Several dozen more are planned, with the government aiming for a five-fold increase in capacity by 2020 Nuclear is not the only option for Beijing; other energy sources, hydro-electricity among them, are also in use or being trialled. Until a more efficient method of producing clean electricity has been developed, though, it is the best choice. The provision of fake data in Japan is - rightly - being investigated by the country's government. It highlights the need for all nations with nuclear reactors to maintain the highest standards in operating them.