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

UCS Causes Meltdowns at US Nuclear Reactors (no, really)

, director, Nuclear Safety Project

Disaster by Design/ Safety by Intent #46

Disaster by Design

You won’t see it on our website. You won’t find it in materials we mail out to our members. You won’t hear it in the webinars we hold for prospective donors. But UCS caused a meltdown at a U.S. nuclear power reactor. Well, that’s only half the story. UCS caused meltdowns at two U.S. nuclear power reactors. In our defense, they (being the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) and the nuclear industry, started it. We only finished it. Read more >

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PRA Nuclear Power Safety

, director, Nuclear Safety Project

Disaster by Design/ Safety by Intent #45

Disaster by Design

Disaster by Design/Safety by Intent #44 described how diverse, independent barriers (DIBs) can be used to promote nuclear power plant safety. That commentary cited the various pumps for providing makeup water to the reactor vessel for core cooling as an example. This commentary uses this same example to illustrate how probabilistic risk analyses (PRAs) are used to better understand, and manage, nuclear power’s risks. Read more >

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DIBs on Nuclear Power Plant Safety

, director, Nuclear Safety Project

Disaster by Design/ Safety by Intent #44

Disaster by Design

Imagine that you have an extremely important appointment scheduled early tomorrow morning. To ensure that you get to the appointment on time, you might apply DIBs—Diverse Independent Barriers. Read more >

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You Might be Operating an Unsafe Reactor If…

, director, Nuclear Safety Project

Disaster by Design/ Safety by Intent #43

Disaster by Design

There are currently two empty positions on the five-member Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC). If comedian Jeff Foxworthy were nominated and confirmed to become a Commissioner, you wonder how he would finish the nuclear safety equivalent of his “redneck” routine?

You might be operating an unsafe reactor if …

This Ending Intentionally Blank Read more >

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Nuclear Plant Accidents: Three Mile Island

, director, Nuclear Safety Project

Disaster by Design/Safety by Intent #42

Disaster by Design

At 4:00 am on March 28, 1979, workers at the Three Mile Island (TMI) nuclear plant near Harrisburg, Pennsylvania were preparing to restart the Unit 1 reactor from a refueling outage. The Unit 2 reactor was marking its first anniversary—exactly one year earlier, a nuclear chain reaction had been achieved for the first time. A series of events over the next 135 minutes would end Unit 2’s life and delay Unit 1’s restart for several years. Read more >

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