Disaster by Design

Nuclear reactors use multiple safety systems to operate with low-risk. This series examines what happens when those systems fail—and explores what can be done to ensure better safety in the future.


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Latest Disaster by Design Posts

Kudos to NRC for Lessons-Learned Review at Columbia Fuel Fabrication Facility

, director, Nuclear Safety Project

Disaster by Design/Safety by Intent #63

Safety by Intent

Westinghouse Electric Corporation notified the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) on July 14, 2016, that workers at its Columbia Fuel Fabrication Facility (CFFF) in South Carolina found significant accumulation of uranium in a ventilation system. The amount of enriched uranium exceeded limits established at the facility as protection against inadvertent criticality.

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End of the (Weekly) Line

, director, Nuclear Safety Project

It began on July 6, 2010, with commentary about a flood inside the Unit 2 containment building at Indian Point. Fission Stories were weekly commentaries about nuclear power plant problems. Fission Stories #198 ended the series on September 29, 2015. Read more >

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Protecting Against Fatigued Nuclear Plant Workers

, director, Nuclear Safety Project

Disaster by Design/ Safety by Intent #62

Safety by Intent

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) revised its regulations requiring nuclear plant workers to be fit for duty on March 31, 2008, to include measures intended to protect against mistakes made by workers impaired by fatigue. Specifically, Subpart I, “Managing Fatigue,” was added to 10 CFR Part 26, “Fitness for Duty Programs.”

The NRC issued its fitness for duty requirements in the late 1980s in response to Congressional concerns about reports of illegal drug use by nuclear plant workers. The original requirements instituted initial, random, and for-cause drug and alcohol testing of all workers granted access inside nuclear power plants. Read more >

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The Nuclear Safety Value of “What If?”

, director, Nuclear Safety Project

Disaster by Design/ Safety by Intent #61

Safety by Intent

Picture a driver distracted by tuning the car’s radio or reading a very clever roadside billboard and unknowingly traveling through a stop sign without even slowing down. Due to good fortune, the driver neither hits another vehicle nor gets hit.

Upon realizing the stop sign had been run, the driver could have two reactions. Based on the actual outcome, the driver could conclude that less time would be wasted in the future by simply not stopping at stop signs and red lights any more. Or, based on what could have happened, the driver could resolve to pay better attention to traffic safety signs. Read more >

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Nuclear Plant Security

, director, Nuclear Safety Project

Disaster by Design/ Safety by Intent #60

Security by Intent

Nuclear Energy Activist Toolkits #32 and #47 described the emergency plan preparations required by federal regulations for every operating nuclear power plant. Other federal regulations require design features backed by testing and inspection protocols intended to minimize the chances of a nuclear plant accident that might result in the emergency plans being needed. That’s Safety by Intent. Read more >

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