Dave Lochbaum

Director, Nuclear Safety Project

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Mr. Lochbaum received a BS in Nuclear Engineering from the University of Tennessee in 1979 and worked as a nuclear engineer in nuclear power plants for 17 years. In 1992, he and a colleague identified a safety problem in a plant where they were working. When their concerns were ignored by the plant manager, the utility, and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), they took the issue to Congress. The problem was eventually corrected at the original plant and at plants across the country. Lochbaum joined UCS in 1996 to work on nuclear power safety. He spent a year in 2009-10 working at the NRC Training Center in Tennessee. Areas of expertise: Nuclear power safety, nuclear technology and plant design, regulatory oversight, plant license renewal and decommissioning

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Longstanding Nuclear Safety Impairments

Disaster by Design: Safety by Intent #8

Disaster by Design

Individuals applying for health insurance are often asked to first undergo a medical examination. The premium rates charged by insurance companies for health care coverage are established based on statistics. If an individual has a pre-existing condition (like a festering gunshot wound to the abdomen), that person might require more medical attention than the statistics would otherwise suggest. Insurance companies rely on medical examinations to lessen the “surprise factor” of pre-existing conditions and set premium rates that provide the coverage the customers need and the profit the companies need.

Longstanding nuclear safety impairments are pre-existing conditions that undermine the plant’s health. Read more >

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Presentation to NRC Commission on Lessons from Fukushima

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission invited me to share UCS’s perspectives on the status of lessons learned from the Fukushima accident during a November 17, 2015, briefing. This briefing was one in a series of briefings conducted every 3-4 months by the Chairman and Commissioners to hear from external stakeholders and the NRC’s senior staff. Read more >

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The Bathtub Curve, Nuclear Safety, and Run-to-Failure

Disaster by Design: Safety by Intent #7

Disaster by Design

The bathtub curve (Fig. 1) is a common way of showing the failure rate as a function of time. The observed failure rate (blue curve) reflects the overall failure rate. It is the sum of three individual failure rates: (1) the failure rate due to infant mortality (red dotted line), (2) the failure date due to random causes (green line), and (3) the failure rate caused by wear out (yellow dotted line). Read more >

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When Safety Relief Valves Fail to Provide Safety or Relief at Nuclear Plants

Disaster by Design: Safety by Intent #6

Disaster by Design

The light water reactors currently operating in the U.S. are either boiling water reactors (BWRs) or pressurized water reactors (PWRs). In both designs, water flowing past the nuclear fuel in the reactor cores gets heated to over 500°F. Water is able to be heated to this temperature because it is pressurized—to over 1,000 pounds per square inch (psi) in BWRs and to over 2,000 psi in PWRs. The 1,000 psi pressure is equivalent to the pressure submerged more than 2,200 feet below the ocean’s surface. Read more >

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Nuclear Maintenance: If It Ain’t Broke, Let’s Break It

Disaster by Design: Safety by Intent #5

Disaster by Design

Thirty years ago, the average annual capacity factor of U.S. nuclear power reactors—the fraction of electricity generated compared to what could be generated by operating at 100% power over the entire year—was between 55 and 60%.

Over the past decade, the average annual capacity factor has steadily been around 90%. Read more >

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