Nuclear safety

Nuclear safety

Nuclear safety covers the actions taken to prevent nuclear and radiation accidents or to limit their consequences. This covers nuclear power plants as well as all other nuclear facilities, the transportation of nuclear materials, and the use and storage of nuclear materials for medical, power, industry, and military uses.

The nuclear power industry has improved the safety and performance of reactors, and has proposed new safer (but generally untested) reactor designs but there is no guarantee that the reactors will be designed, built and operated correctly.[1] Mistakes do occur and the designers of reactors at Fukushima in Japan 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.[2][3] According to UBS AG, the Fukushima I nuclear accidents have cast doubt on whether even an advanced economy like Japan can master nuclear safety.[4] Catastrophic scenarios involving terrorist attacks are also conceivable.[1]

An interdisciplinary team from MIT have estimated that given the expected growth of nuclear power from 2005 – 2055, at least four serious nuclear accidents would be expected in that period.[5][6] To date, there have been five serious accidents (core damage) in the world since 1970 (one at Three Mile Island in 1979; one at Chernobyl in 1986; and three at Fukushima-Daiichi in 2011), corresponding to the beginning of the operation of generation II reactors. This leads to on average one serious accident happening every eight years worldwide.[3]

Nuclear weapon safety, as well as the safety of military research involving nuclear materials, is generally handled by agencies different from those that oversee civilian safety, for various reasons, including secrecy.

Contents

Agencies

IAEA headquarters in Vienna, Austria

Internationally the International Atomic Energy Agency "works with its Member States and multiple partners worldwide to promote safe, secure and peaceful nuclear technologies."[7] Some scientists say that the 2011 Japanese nuclear accidents have revealed that the nuclear industry lacks sufficient oversight, leading to renewed calls to redefine the mandate of the IAEA so that it can better police nuclear power plants worldwide.[8] There are several problems with the IAEA says Najmedin Meshkati of University of Southern California:

It recommends safety standards, but member states are not required to comply; it promotes nuclear energy, but it also monitors nuclear use; it is the sole global organization overseeing the nuclear energy industry, yet it is also weighed down by checking compliance with the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).[8]

Many nations utilizing nuclear power have special institutions overseeing and regulating nuclear safety. Civilian nuclear safety in the U.S. is regulated by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC). The safety of nuclear plants and materials controlled by the U.S. government for research, weapons production, and those powering naval vessels is not governed by the NRC.[9][10] In the UK nuclear safety is regulated by the Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR) and the Defence Nuclear Safety Regulator (DNSR). The Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency (ARPANSA) is the Federal Government body that monitors and identifies solar radiation and nuclear radiation risks in Australia. It is the main body dealing with ionizing and non-ionizing radiation[11] and publishes material regarding radiation protection.[12]

Other agencies include:

Nuclear power plant

Complexity

Nuclear power plants are some of the most sophisticated and complex energy systems ever designed.[13] Any complex system, no matter how well it is designed and engineered, cannot be deemed failure-proof.[3] Stephanie Cooke has said that:

The reactors themselves were enormously complex machines with an incalculable number of things that could go wrong. When that happened at Three Mile Island in 1979, another fault line in the nuclear world was exposed. One malfunction led to another, and then to a series of others, until the core of the reactor itself began to melt, and even the world's most highly trained nuclear engineers did not know how to respond. The accident revealed serious deficiencies in a system that was meant to protect public health and safety.[14]

A fundamental issue related to complexity is that nuclear power systems have exceedingly long lifetimes. The timeframe involved from the start of construction of a commercial nuclear power station, through to the safe disposal of its last radioactive waste, may be 100 to 150 years.[13]

Failure modes of nuclear power plants

There are concerns that a combination of human and mechanical error at a nuclear facility could result in significant harm to people and the environment:[15]

Operating nuclear reactors contain large amounts of radioactive fission products which, if dispersed, can pose a direct radiation hazard, contaminate soil and vegetation, and be ingested by humans and animals. Human exposure at high enough levels can cause both short-term illness and death and longer-term death by cancer and other diseases.[16]

It is impossible for a commercial nuclear reactor to explode like a nuclear bomb since the fuel is never sufficiently enriched for this to occur.[17]

Nuclear reactors can fail in a variety of ways. Should the instability of the nuclear material generate unexpected behavior, it may result in an uncontrolled power excursion. Normally, the cooling system in a reactor is designed to be able to handle the excess heat this causes; however, should the reactor also experience a loss-of-coolant accident, then the fuel may melt or cause the vessel it is contained in to overheat and melt. This event is called a nuclear meltdown.

After shutting down, for some time the reactor still needs external energy to power its cooling systems. Normally this energy is provided by the power grid to that the plant is connected, or by emergency diesel generators. Failure to provide power for the cooling systems, as happened in Fukushima I, can cause serious accidents.

Nuclear safety rules in the United States "do not adequately weigh the risk of a single event that would knock out electricity from the grid and from emergency generators, as a quake and tsunami recently did in Japan", Nuclear Regulatory Commission officials said in June 2011.[18]

Intentional cause of such failures may be the result of nuclear terrorism.

Vulnerability of nuclear plants to attack

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:[19]

  • In September 1980, Iran bombed the Al Tuwaitha nuclear complex in Iraq.
  • In June 1981, an Israeli air strike completely destroyed Iraq’s Osirak nuclear research facility.
  • Between 1984 and 1987, Iraq bombed Iran’s Bushehr nuclear plant six times.
  • In Iraq in 1991, the U.S. bombed three nuclear reactors and an enrichment pilot facility.
  • In 1991, Iraq launched Scud missiles at Israel’s Dimona nuclear power plant.
  • In September 2007, Israel bombed a Syrian reactor under construction.[19]

In the U.S., plants are surrounded by a double row of tall fences which are electronically monitored. The plant grounds are patrolled by a sizeable force of armed guards.[20] The NRC's "Design Basis Threat" criteria for plants is a secret, and so what size of attacking force the plants are able to protect against is unknown. However, to scram (make an emergency shutdown) a plant takes fewer than 5 seconds while unimpeded restart takes hours, severely hampering a terrorist force in a goal to release radioactivity.

Attack from the air is an issue that has been highlighted since the September 11 attacks in the U.S. However, it was in 1972 when three hijackers took control of a domestic passenger flight along the east coast of the U.S. and threatened to crash the plane into a U.S. nuclear weapons plant in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. The plane got as close as 8,000 feet above the site before the hijackers’ demands were met.[21][22]

The most important barrier against the release of radioactivity in the event of an aircraft strike on a nuclear power plant is the containment building and its missile shield. Current NRC Chairman Dale Klein has said "Nuclear power plants are inherently robust structures that our studies show provide adequate protection in a hypothetical attack by an airplane. The NRC has also taken actions that require nuclear power plant operators to be able to manage large fires or explosions—no matter what has caused them."[23]

In addition, supporters point to large studies carried out by the U.S. Electric Power Research Institute that tested the robustness of both reactor and waste fuel storage and found that they should be able to sustain a terrorist attack comparable to the September 11 terrorist attacks in the U.S. Spent fuel is usually housed inside the plant's "protected zone"[24] or a spent nuclear fuel shipping cask; stealing it for use in a "dirty bomb" is extremely difficult. Exposure to the intense radiation would almost certainly quickly incapacitate or kill anyone who attempts to do so.[25]

In September 2010, analysis of the Stuxnet computer worm suggested that it was designed to sabotage a nuclear power plant. Such a cyber attack would bypass the physical safeguards in place and so the exploit demonstrates an important new vulnerability.[26]

Plant location

In many countries, plants are often located on the coast, in order to provide a ready source of cooling water for the essential service water system. As a consequence the design needs to take the risk of flooding and tsunamis into account. The World Energy Council (WEC) argues disaster risks are changing and increasing the likelihood of disasters such as earthquakes, cyclones, hurricanes, typhoons, flooding.[27] Climate change and increased temperatures, lower precipitation levels and an increase in the frequency and severity of droughts may lead to fresh water shortages.[27] Seawater is corrosive and so nuclear energy supply is likely to be negatively affected by the fresh water shortage.[27] This generic problem may become increasingly significant over time.[27] Failure to calculate the risk of flooding correctly lead to a Level 2 event on the International Nuclear Event Scale during the 1999 Blayais Nuclear Power Plant flood,[28] while flooding caused by the 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami lead to the Fukushima I nuclear accidents.[29]

The design of plants located in seismically active zones also requires the risk of earthquakes and tsunamis to be taken into account. Japan, India, China and the USA are among the countries to have plants in earthquake-prone regions. Damage caused to Japan's Kashiwazaki-Kariwa Nuclear Power Plant during the 2007 Chūetsu offshore earthquake[30][31] underlined concerns expressed by experts in Japan prior to the Fukushima accidents, who have warned of a genpatsu-shinsai (domino-effect nuclear power plant earthquake disaster).[32]

Nuclear safety systems

The three primary objectives of nuclear safety systems as defined by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission are to shut down the reactor, maintain it in a shutdown condition, and prevent the release of radioactive material during events and accidents.[33] These objectives are accomplished using a variety of equipment, which is part of different systems, of which each performs specific functions.


Hazards of nuclear material

Spent nuclear fuel stored underwater and uncapped at the Hanford site in Washington, USA.

The world's nuclear fleet creates about 10,000 metric tons of high-level spent nuclear fuel each year.[34] High-level radioactive waste management concerns management and disposal of highly radioactive materials created during production of nuclear power. The technical issues in accomplishing this are daunting, due to the extremely long periods radioactive wastes remain deadly to living organisms. Of particular concern are two long-lived fission products, Technetium-99 (half-life 220,000 years) and Iodine-129 (half-life 15.7 million years),[35] which dominate spent nuclear fuel radioactivity after a few thousand years. The most troublesome transuranic elements in spent fuel are Neptunium-237 (half-life two million years) and Plutonium-239 (half-life 24,000 years).[36] Consequently, high-level radioactive waste requires sophisticated treatment and management to successfully isolate it from the biosphere. This usually necessitates treatment, followed by a long-term management strategy involving permanent storage, disposal or transformation of the waste into a non-toxic form.[37]

Governments around the world are considering a range of waste management and disposal options, usually involving deep-geologic placement, although there has been limited progress toward implementing long-term waste management solutions.[38] This is partly because the timeframes in question when dealing with radioactive waste range from 10,000 to millions of years,[39][40] according to studies based on the effect of estimated radiation doses.[41]

New nuclear technologies

Nuclear proponents have tried bolster public support by offering newer, safer, reactor designs. 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".[42]

The next nuclear plants to be built will likely be Generation III or III+ designs, and a few such are already in operation in Japan. 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".[43] As one director of a U.S. research laboratory put it, "fabrication, construction, operation, and maintenance of new reactors will face a steep learning curve: advanced technologies will have a heightened risk of accidents and mistakes. The technology may be proven, but people are not".[43]

Safety culture and human errors

One relatively prevalent notion in discussions of nuclear safety is that of safety culture. The International Nuclear Safety Advisory Group, defines the term as “the personal dedication and accountability of all individuals engaged in any activity which has a bearing on the safety of nuclear power plants”.[44] The goal is “to design systems that use human capabilities in appropriate ways, that protect systems from human frailties, and that protect humans from hazards associated with the system”.[44]

At the same time, there is some evidence that operational practices are not easy to change. Operators almost never follow instructions and written procedures exactly, and “the violation of rules appears to be quite rational, given the actual workload and timing constraints under which the operators must do their job”. Many attempts to improve nuclear safety culture “were compensated by people adapting to the change in an unpredicted way”.[44]

According to Areva's Southeast Asia and Oceania director, Selena Ng, Japan's Fukushima nuclear disaster is "a huge wake-up call for a nuclear industry that hasn't always been sufficiently transparent about safety issues". She said "There was a sort of complacency before Fukushima and I don't think we can afford to have that complacency now".[45]

An assessment conducted by the Commissariat à l’Énergie Atomique (CEA) in France concluded that no amount of technical innovation can eliminate the risk of human-induced errors associated with the operation of nuclear power plants. Two types of mistakes were deemed most serious: errors committed during field operations, such as maintenance and testing, that can cause an accident; and human errors made during small accidents that cascade to complete failure.[43]

According to Mycle Schneider, reactor safety depends above all on a 'culture of security', including the quality of maintenance and training, the competence of the operator and the workforce, and the rigour of regulatory oversight. So a better-designed, newer reactor is not always a safer one, and older reactors are not necessarily more dangerous than newer ones. The 1978 Three Mile Island accident in the United States occurred in a reactor that had started operation only three months earlier, and the Chernobyl disaster occurred after only two years of operation. A serious loss of coolant occurred at the French Civaux-1 reactor in 1998, less than five months after start-up.[46]

However safe a plant is designed to be, it is operated by humans who are prone to errors. Laurent Stricker, a nuclear engineer and chairman of the World Association of Nuclear Operators says that operators must guard against complacency and avoid overconfidence. Experts say that the "largest single internal factor determining the safety of a plant is the culture of security among regulators, operators and the workforce — and creating such a culture is not easy".[46]

Risks

The routine health risks and greenhouse gas emissions from nuclear fission power are small relative to those associated with coal, but there are several "catastrophic risks":[47]

The extreme danger of the radioactive material in power plants and of nuclear technology in and of itself is so well-known that the US government was prompted (at the industry's urging) to enact provisions that protect the nuclear industry from bearing the full burden of such inherently risky nuclear operations. The Price-Anderson Act limits industry's liability in the case of accidents, and the 1982 Nuclear Waste Policy Act charges the federal government with responsibility for permanently storing nuclear waste.[48]

Population density is one critical lens through which other risks have to be assessed, says Laurent Stricker, a nuclear engineer and chairman of the World Association of Nuclear Operators:[46]

The KANUPP plant in Karachi, Pakistan, has the most people — 8.2 million — living within 30 kilometres of a nuclear plant, although it has just one relatively small reactor with an output of 125 megawatts. Next in the league, however, are much larger plants — Taiwan's 1,933-megawatt Kuosheng plant with 5.5 million people within a 30-kilometre radius and the 1,208-megawatt Chin Shan plant with 4.7 million; both zones include the capital city of Taipei.[46]

  • International Nuclear Events Scale
  • Comparative Risk Assessment [49]
  • Statistical Risk Assessment [50]
  • Probabilistic risk assessment
    • Severe Accident Risks: An Assessment for Five U.S. Nuclear Power Plants NUREG-1150 1991
    • Calculation of Reactor Accident Consequences CRAC-II 1982
    • Rasmussen Report: Reactor Safety Study WASH-1400 1975
    • The Brookhaven Report: Theoretical Possibilities and Consequences of Major Accidents in Large Nuclear Power Plants WASH-740 1957

The AP1000 has a maximum core damage frequency of 5.09 x 10−7 per plant per year. The Evolutionary Power Reactor (EPR) has a maximum core damage frequency of 4 x 10−7 per plant per year. General Electric has recalculated maximum core damage frequencies per year per plant for its nuclear power plant designs:[51]

BWR/4 -- 1 x 10-5
BWR/6 -- 1 x 10-6
ABWR -- 2 x 10-7
ESBWR -- 3 x 10-8

Beyond design basis events

As Fukushima showed, external threats — such as earthquakes, tsunamis, fires, flooding, tornadoes and terrorist attacks — are some of the greatest risk factors for a serious nuclear accident. Yet, nuclear plant operators have normally considered these accident sequences (called 'beyond design basis' events) so unlikely that they have not built in complete safeguards.[46]

Forecasting the location of the next earthquake or the size of the next tsunami is an imperfect art. Nuclear plants situated outside known geological danger zones "could pose greater accident threats in the event of an earthquake than those inside, as the former could have weaker protection built in".[46] The Fukushima I plant, for example, was "located in an area designated, on Japan's seismic risk map, as having a relatively low chance of a large earthquake and tsunami; when the 2011 tsunami arrived, it was in excess of anything its engineers had planned for".[46]

Transparency and ethics

According to Stephanie Cooke, it is difficult to know what really goes on inside nuclear power plants because the industry is shrouded in secrecy. Corporations and governments control what information is made available to the public. Cooke says "when information is made available, it is often couched in jargon and incomprehensible prose".[52]

Kennette Benedict has said that nuclear technology and plant operations continue to lack transparency and to be relatively closed to public view:[53]

Despite victories like the creation of the Atomic Energy Commission, and later the Nuclear Regular Commission, the secrecy that began with the Manhattan Project has tended to permeate the civilian nuclear program, as well as the military and defense programs.[53]

In 1986, Soviet officials held off reporting the Chernobyl disaster for several days. The operators of the Fukushima plant, Tokyo Electric Power Co, were also criticised for not quickly disclosing information on radiation leaks from the plant. Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said there must be greater transparency in nuclear emergencies.[54]

Historically many scientists and engineers have made decisions on behalf of potentially affected populations about whether a particular level of risk and uncertainty is acceptable for them. Many nuclear engineers and scientists that have made such decisions, even for good reasons relating to long term energy availability, now consider that doing so without informed consent is wrong, and that nuclear power safety and nuclear technologies should be based fundamentally on morality, rather than purely on technical, economic and business considerations.[55]

Non-Nuclear Futures: The Case for an Ethical Energy Strategy is a 1975 book by Amory B. Lovins and John H. Price.[56][57] The main theme of the book is that the most important parts of the nuclear power debate are not technical disputes but relate to personal values, and are the legitimate province of every citizen, whether technically trained or not.[58]

Nuclear and radiation accidents

2011 Fukushima I accidents

Three of the reactors at Fukushima I overheated, causing meltdowns that eventually led to hydrogen explosions, which released large amounts of radioactive gases into the air.[59]

The 40-year-old Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant, built in the 1970s, endured Japan's worst earthquake on record in March 2011 but had its power and back-up generators knocked out by a 7-meter tsunami that followed.[29] The designers of the reactors at Fukushima 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. Nuclear reactors are such "inherently complex, tightly coupled systems that, in rare, emergency situations, cascading interactions will unfold very rapidly in such a way that human operators will be unable to predict and master them".[60]

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 200,000 people and causing radiation levels to rise on the outskirts of Tokyo, 135 miles (210 kilometers) to the south, with a population of 30 million.[29]

Back-up diesel generators that might have averted the disaster were positioned in a basement, where they were overwhelmed by waves. The cascade of events at Fukushima had been foretold in a report published in the U.S. several decades ago:[29]

The 1990 report by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, an independent agency responsible for safety at the country’s power plants, identified earthquake-induced diesel generator failure and power outage leading to failure of cooling systems as one of the “most likely causes” of nuclear accidents from an external event.[29]

While the report was cited in a 2004 statement by Japan’s Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency, it seems adequate measures to address the risk were not taken by Tokyo Electric. Katsuhiko Ishibashi, a seismology professor at Kobe University, has said that Japan’s history of nuclear accidents stems from an overconfidence in plant engineering. In 2006, he resigned from a government panel on nuclear reactor safety, because the review process was rigged and “unscientific”.[29]

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".[61] The IAEA also said that the Fukushima disaster exposed the lack of adequate backup systems 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".[61]

Louise Fréchette and Trevor Findlay have said that more effort is needed to ensure nuclear safety and improve responses to accidents:

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. [62]

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.[63]

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".[64]

Following the Fukushima emergency, the European Union decided that reactors across all 27 member nations should undergo safety tests.[65]

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 1986:

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. 'At Fukushima, four reactors have been out of control for weeks -- casting doubt on whether even an advanced economy can master nuclear safety.'[66]

1986 Chernobyl disaster

Map showing Caesium-137 contamination in Belarus, Russia, and Ukraine as of 1996.

The Chernobyl disaster was a nuclear accident that occurred on 26 April 1986 at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant in Ukraine. 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).[67] The battle to contain the contamination and avert a greater catastrophe ultimately involved over 500,000 workers and cost an estimated 18 billion rubles, crippling the Soviet economy.[68] The accident raised concerns about the safety of the nuclear power industry, slowing its expansion for a number of years.[69]

UNSCEAR has conducted 20 years of detailed scientific and epidemiological research on the effects of the Chernobyl accident. Apart from the 57 direct deaths in the accident itself, UNSCEAR predicted in 2005 that up to 4,000 additional cancer deaths related to the accident would appear "among the 600 000 persons receiving more significant exposures (liquidators working in 1986–87, evacuees, and residents of the most contaminated areas)".[70] Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus have been burdened with the continuing and substantial decontamination and health care costs of the Chernobyl disaster.[71]

Other accidents

Serious nuclear and radiation accidents include the Chalk River accidents (1952, 1958 & 2008), Mayak disaster (1957), Windscale fire (1957), SL-1 accident (1961), Soviet submarine K-19 accident (1961), Three Mile Island accident (1979), Church Rock uranium mill spill (1979), Soviet submarine K-431 accident (1985), Goiânia accident (1987), Zaragoza radiotherapy accident (1990), Costa Rica radiotherapy accident (1996), Tokaimura nuclear accident (1999), Sellafield THORP leak (2005), and the Flerus IRE Cobalt-60 spill (2006).[72][73]

Health impacts

Japan towns, villages, and cities around the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant. The 20km and 30km areas had evacuation and sheltering orders, and additional administrative districts that had an evacuation order are highlighted.

In spite of accidents like Chernobyl, 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.[74]

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 2011 Japanese nuclear accidents:[75]

You have people in Japan right now that are facing either not returning to their homes forever, or if they do return to their homes, living in a contaminated area for basically ever. And knowing that whatever food they eat, it might be contaminated and always living with this sort of shadow of fear over them that they will die early because of cancer and induced by Caesium or Strontium or some other radionuclide that's laced their vegetables. It affects millions of people, it affects our land, it affects our atmosphere, we know now the radio nuclides from Fukushima are going into the sea. It doesn't just kill now, it kills later, and it could kill centuries later. Because the stuff that that's depositing, doesn't just end, it has a long, long life. It's affecting future generations, it's not just affecting this generation. So I'm not a great fan of coal-burning. 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.[75]

The Fukushima accident forced more than 80,000 residents to evacuate from neighborhoods around the plant.[76]

Developing countries

There are concerns about developing countries "rushing to join the so-called nuclear renaissance without the necessary infrastructure, personnel, regulatory frameworks and safety culture".[77] Some countries with nuclear aspirations, like Nigeria, Kenya, Bangladesh and Venezuela, have no significant industrial experience and will require at least a decade of preparation even before breaking ground at a reactor site.[77]

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".[78] China is advised to maintain nuclear safeguards in a business culture where quality and safety are sometimes sacrificed in favor of cost-cutting, profits, and corruption. China has asked for international assistance in training more nuclear power plant inspectors.[78]

See also

References

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