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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Reactor Oversight Process

, director, Nuclear Safety Project

Disaster by Design/ Safety by Intent #51

Safety by Intent

Last week’s commentary covered the NRC’s Maintenance Rule and expressed my perspective that it was the best thing the NRC has done over the past four decades. This week’s commentary describes my nominee for the second best thing—the Reactor Oversight Process (ROP). Read more >

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NRC’s Nuclear Maintenance Rule

, director, Nuclear Safety Project

Disaster by Design/ Safety by Intent #50

Safety by Intent

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) identified a disturbing trend in the mid-80s—the number of safety problems caused by inadequate maintenance was increasing. In some cases, ineffective practices during routine maintenance such as replacing worn-out gaskets or lubricating rotating machinery resulted in equipment that had been operating satisfactorily breaking down soon afterwards. Read more >

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Nuclear Bathtub Safety

, director, Nuclear Safety Project

Disaster by Design/ Safety by Intent #49

Safety by Intent

In recent years, Japan’s health ministry initiated a study in response to an estimate that nearly 14,000 people die annually in bathtubs, almost three times the number of people killed each year in traffic accidents in the country.

More recently, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention issued a warning because over a dozen people have died since 2000 working on bathtubs—due to exposure to methylene chloride, a solvent used to clean tubs being refinished.

This commentary addresses figurative rather than literal bathtub safety. Read more >

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Nuclear Reactors and Flood Protection

, director, Nuclear Safety Project

Disaster by Design/ Safety by Intent #48

Safety by Intent

Oconee Flood Protection Issue

In August 2006, NRC inspectors identified a deficiency in a flood protection measure at the Oconee Nuclear Station in South Carolina. Specifically, the inspectors discovered that workers removed a 6-inch by 10-inch panel in the 5-foot tall flood wall around the Standby Shutdown Facility (SSF) to allow temporary cables to be used during a modification. When the work was completed and the cables removed, the panel was not re-installed.

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Avoiding Bad Nuclear Gas

, director, Nuclear Safety Project

Disaster by Design/Safety by Intent #47

UCS launched this blog series about a year ago. Until now, the series focused on Disaster by Design by describing steps taken along the path to disaster, including a few times that journey was completed. Beginning with this commentary, the focus will flip to Safety by Intent by describing times when measures undertaken by the nuclear industry and/or the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) enhanced nuclear safety. The measures could prevent even embarking down the path to disaster, or hasten to halt that journey if started, or building in more steps between the start and end of the journey to make it less likely all steps ever get taken.

The initial commentary for this refocused series describes commendable measures undertaken by the NRC and the nuclear industry to better manage the risk from gas accumulating within plant systems and equipment to cause harm. Read more >

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