Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Reflections of a Nuclear Power Engineer

Nuclear plants

In this article, reposted on CommonDreams.org, a nuclear engineer talks about his disenchantment with nuclear power because of safety issues and offers an insider view of inherent problems. He offers an interesting assessment of the probability and risk associated with nuclear plant operation:

He illustrates this by comparing driving on the Italian highway, the Autostrada, with running a nuclear power station. Driving on the Autostrada has a low risk to the general population. A possibility does exist that you will crash, and perhaps die as a result, but the consequences of the accident to the general society will be next to nil. That’s why countries let almost anyone drive. So a moderately high P times a very low C equals a small risk to society as a whole.

On the other hand, the chance of an earthquake and tsunami of the magnitude that hit Japan are quite remote, especially occurring in tandem, which makes for a tiny P. But the consequences — the C — of them imperiling a nuclear power plant are huge, leading to a much higher risk to society.

Voters in Italy are convinced. They just voted down plans to restart nuclear power in their country.