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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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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Friendly Answers Following Blowing of the Winds

, director, Nuclear Safety Project

Disaster by Design/ Safety by Intent #59

Safety by Intent

With ample warning, Hurricane Matthew made landfall in South Carolina coast on October 8, 2016, bringing along its heavy rainfall and high winds.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency conducted Disaster Initiated Reviews for nuclear plants in South Carolina, North Carolina and Florida to determine whether Hurricane Matthew adversely affected emergency planning measures within a 10-mile radius of each site. Read more >

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Equity within the Nuclear Regulatory Commission

, director, Nuclear Safety Project

Disaster by Design/ Safety by Intent #58

Safety by Intent

As articulated in a recent posting by UCS’s Center for Science and Democracy, UCS believes science can and should be applied to reduce racial and economic inequity. Inequity can result when biases can, intentionally or not, put a segment of the population at a disadvantage. The staff of UCS has received training sessions and briefings over the past year on institutional and individual biases that result in racial and economic inequities.

With the information from these sessions and briefings in mind, I reflected on my dealings with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) over the years. I have discussed many concerns and problems with NRC managers and staffers, but could not recall one where race or gender was named as a contributing factor. But this process wasn’t very sciency. It was more gossipy than sciency. So, I undertook a less-gossip, more-science approach to the matter. (Gossip has it that the more science we use, the more points we get.) Read more >

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Public Safety Improvements

, director, Nuclear Safety Project

Disaster by Design/ Safety by Intent #57

Safety by Intent

Continuing the series initiated with Disaster by Design #47, this commentary describes efforts that yielded public safety improvements. But this commentary approaches the subject from a perspective differing from prior commentaries. While still discussing improvements in public safety, this commentary focuses on safety improvements achieved by the public. Read more >

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