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Whatever position one takes in the nuclear power debate , the possibility of catastrophic accidents and consequent economic costs must be considered when nuclear policy and regulations are being framed. Kristin Shrader-Frechette has said "if reactors were safe, nuclear industries would not demand government-guaranteed, accident-liability protection, as a condition for their generating electricity".
The Hanford Site is a mostly decommissioned nuclear production complex on the Columbia River in the U. Plutonium manufactured at the site was used in the first nuclear bomb , tested at the Trinity site , and in Fat Man , the bomb detonated over Nagasaki , Japan. An explosion and fire released large quantities of radioactive contamination into the atmosphere, which spread over much of Western USSR and Europe. It is considered the worst nuclear power plant accident in history, and is one of only two classified as a level 7 event on the International Nuclear Event Scale the other being the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster.
Apart from the 57 direct deaths in the accident itself, UNSCEAR predicted in that up to 4, additional cancer deaths related to the accident would appear "among the persons receiving more significant exposures liquidators working in —87, evacuees, and residents of the most contaminated areas ".
Critics say that these reactors are of an "inherently unsafe design", which cannot be improved through upgrades and modernization, and some reactor parts are impossible to replace. Russian environmental groups say that the lifetime extensions "violate Russian law, because the projects have not undergone environmental assessments". Despite all assurances, a major nuclear accident on the scale of the Chernobyl disaster happened again in in Japan, one of the world's most industrially advanced countries.
Nuclear Safety Commission Chairman Haruki Madarame told a parliamentary inquiry in February that "Japan's atomic safety rules are inferior to global standards and left the country unprepared for the Fukushima nuclear disaster last March". There were flaws in, and lax enforcement of, the safety rules governing Japanese nuclear power companies, and this included insufficient protection against tsunamis.
A report in The Economist said: "The reactors at Fukushima were of an old design. The risks they faced had not been well analysed. The operating company was poorly regulated and did not know what was going on. The operators made mistakes. The representatives of the safety inspectorate fled. Some of the equipment failed. The establishment repeatedly played down the risks and suppressed information about the movement of the radioactive plume, so some people were evacuated from more lightly to more heavily contaminated places". The designers of the Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant reactors did not anticipate that a tsunami generated by an earthquake would disable the backup systems that were supposed to stabilize the reactor after the earthquake.
Lacking electricity to pump water needed to cool the atomic core, engineers vented radioactive steam into the atmosphere to release pressure, leading to a series of explosions that blew out concrete walls around the reactors. Radiation readings spiked around Fukushima as the disaster widened, forcing the evacuation of , people. Back-up diesel generators that might have averted the disaster were positioned in a basement, where they were quickly overwhelmed by waves.
The cascade of events at Fukushima had been predicted in a report published in the U. The report by the U. Katsuhiko Ishibashi , a seismology professor at Kobe University , has said that Japan's history of nuclear accidents stems from an overconfidence in plant engineering. According to the International Atomic Energy Agency , Japan "underestimated the danger of tsunamis and failed to prepare adequate backup systems at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant". This repeated a widely held criticism in Japan that "collusive ties between regulators and industry led to weak oversight and a failure to ensure adequate safety levels at the plant".
Once power was completely lost, critical functions like the cooling system shut down. Three of the reactors "quickly overheated, causing meltdowns that eventually led to explosions, which hurled large amounts of radioactive material into the air". The multiple reactor crises at Japan's Fukushima nuclear power plant reinforce the need for strengthening global instruments to ensure nuclear safety worldwide. The fact that a country that has been operating nuclear power reactors for decades should prove so alarmingly improvisational in its response and so unwilling to reveal the facts even to its own people, much less the International Atomic Energy Agency, is a reminder that nuclear safety is a constant work-in-progress.
David Lochbaum , chief nuclear safety officer with the Union of Concerned Scientists , has repeatedly questioned the safety of the Fukushima I Plant's General Electric Mark 1 reactor design, which is used in almost a quarter of the United States' nuclear fleet. A report from the Japanese Government to the IAEA says the "nuclear fuel in three reactors probably melted through the inner containment vessels, not just the core". The report says the "inadequate" basic reactor design — the Mark-1 model developed by General Electric — included "the venting system for the containment vessels and the location of spent fuel cooling pools high in the buildings, which resulted in leaks of radioactive water that hampered repair work".
Following the Fukushima emergency, the European Union decided that reactors across all 27 member nations should undergo safety tests. According to UBS AG, the Fukushima I nuclear accidents are likely to hurt the nuclear power industry's credibility more than the Chernobyl disaster in The accident in the former Soviet Union 25 years ago 'affected one reactor in a totalitarian state with no safety culture,' UBS analysts including Per Lekander and Stephen Oldfield wrote in a report today.
The Fukushima accident exposed some troubling nuclear safety issues: . Despite the resources poured into analyzing crustal movements and having expert committees determine earthquake risk, for instance, researchers never considered the possibility of a magnitude-9 earthquake followed by a massive tsunami. The failure of multiple safety features on nuclear power plants has raised questions about the nation's engineering prowess.
Government flip-flopping on acceptable levels of radiation exposure confused the public, and health professionals provided little guidance. Facing a dearth of reliable information on radiation levels, citizens armed themselves with dosimeters, pooled data, and together produced radiological contamination maps far more detailed than anything the government or official scientific sources ever provided. As of January , questions also linger as to the extent of damage to the Fukushima plant caused by the earthquake even before the tsunami hit. Any evidence of serious quake damage at the plant would "cast new doubt on the safety of other reactors in quake-prone Japan".
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Two government advisers have said that "Japan's safety review of nuclear reactors after the Fukushima disaster is based on faulty criteria and many people involved have conflicts of interest". Hiromitsu Ino , Professor Emeritus at the University of Tokyo, says "The whole process being undertaken is exactly the same as that used previous to the Fukushima Dai-Ichi accident, even though the accident showed all these guidelines and categories to be insufficient".
In March , Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda acknowledged that the Japanese government shared the blame for the Fukushima disaster, saying that officials had been blinded by a false belief in the country's "technological infallibility", and were all too steeped in a "safety myth". Four hundred and thirty-seven nuclear power stations are presently in operation but, unfortunately, five major nuclear accidents have occurred in the past. A report in Lancet says that the effects of these accidents on individuals and societies are diverse and enduring: .
In spite of accidents like these, studies have shown that nuclear deaths are mostly in uranium mining and that nuclear energy has generated far fewer deaths than the high pollution levels that result from the use of conventional fossil fuels. Journalist Stephanie Cooke says that it is not useful to make comparisons just in terms of number of deaths, as the way people live afterwards is also relevant, as in the case of the Japanese nuclear accidents : .
It affects millions of people, it affects our land, it affects our atmosphere I don't think any of these great big massive plants that spew pollution into the air are good. But I don't think it's really helpful to make these comparisons just in terms of number of deaths". The Fukushima accident forced more than 80, residents to evacuate from neighborhoods around the plant.
A survey by the Iitate, Fukushima local government obtained responses from some 1, people who have evacuated from the village, which lies within the emergency evacuation zone around the crippled Fukushima Daiichi Plant. It shows that many residents are experiencing growing frustration and instability due to the nuclear crisis and an inability to return to the lives they were living before the disaster.
Sixty percent of respondents stated that their health and the health of their families had deteriorated after evacuating, while The survey also showed that A total of Chemical components of the radioactive waste may lead to cancer. For example, Iodine was released along with the radioactive waste when Chernobyl disaster and Fukushima disasters occurred.
It was concentrated in leafy vegetation after absorption in the soil. When Iodine enters the human body, it migrates to the thyroid gland in the neck and can cause thyroid cancer. Other elements from nuclear waste can lead to cancer as well. For example, Strontium 90 causes breast cancer and leukemia, Plutonium causes liver cancer. Redesigns of fuel pellets and cladding are being undertaken which can further improve the safety of existing power plants. Newer reactor designs intended to provide increased safety have been developed over time.
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These designs include those that incorporate passive safety and Small Modular Reactors. While these reactor designs "are intended to inspire trust, they may have an unintended effect: creating distrust of older reactors that lack the touted safety features". Generation IV reactors would have even greater improvements in safety.
These new designs are expected to be passively safe or nearly so, and perhaps even inherently safe as in the PBMR designs. Some improvements made not all in all designs are having three sets of emergency diesel generators and associated emergency core cooling systems rather than just one pair, having quench tanks large coolant-filled tanks above the core that open into it automatically, having a double containment one containment building inside another , etc.
However, safety risks may be the greatest when nuclear systems are the newest, and operators have less experience with them.
Nuclear engineer David Lochbaum explained that almost all serious nuclear accidents occurred with what was at the time the most recent technology. He argues that "the problem with new reactors and accidents is twofold: scenarios arise that are impossible to plan for in simulations; and humans make mistakes". The technology may be proven, but people are not". There are concerns about developing countries "rushing to join the so-called nuclear renaissance without the necessary infrastructure, personnel, regulatory frameworks and safety culture".
The speed of the nuclear construction program in China has raised safety concerns. The challenge for the government and nuclear companies is to "keep an eye on a growing army of contractors and subcontractors who may be tempted to cut corners". Nuclear power plants , civilian research reactors, certain naval fuel facilities, uranium enrichment plants, and fuel fabrication plants, are vulnerable to attacks which could lead to widespread radioactive contamination.
The attack threat is of several general types: commando-like ground-based attacks on equipment which if disabled could lead to a reactor core meltdown or widespread dispersal of radioactivity; and external attacks such as an aircraft crash into a reactor complex, or cyber attacks.
The Federation of American Scientists have said that if nuclear power use is to expand significantly, nuclear facilities will have to be made extremely safe from attacks that could release massive quantities of radioactivity into the community. New reactor designs have features of passive safety , which may help.
Nuclear reactors become preferred targets during military conflict and, over the past three decades, have been repeatedly attacked during military air strikes, occupations, invasions and campaigns. The National Nuclear Security Administration has acknowledged the seriousness of the Plowshares action. Non-proliferation policy experts have questioned "the use of private contractors to provide security at facilities that manufacture and store the government's most dangerous military material". Nuclear fusion power is a developing technology still under research. It relies on fusing rather than fissioning splitting atomic nuclei, using very different processes compared to current nuclear power plants.
Nuclear fusion reactions have the potential to be safer and generate less radioactive waste than fission. Fusion power has been under theoretical and experimental investigation since the s. Construction of the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor facility began in , but the project has run into many delays and budget overruns. The facility is now not expected to begin operations until the year — 11 years after initially anticipated.
Fusion powered electricity generation was initially believed to be readily achievable, as fission power had been. However, the extreme requirements for continuous reactions and plasma containment led to projections being extended by several decades. In , more than 60 years after the first attempts, commercial power production was still believed to be unlikely before Coastal nuclear sites must also be further protected against rising sea levels, storm surges, flooding, and possible eventual "nuclear site islanding". From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.
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