Fission Stories

U.S. reactors have experienced hundreds of safety failures, large and small. This series tells the stories of those failures, drawing lessons for what we should be doing better.


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Latest Fission Stories Posts

Watts Bar Hokey Pokey is Not Okey Dokey

, director, Nuclear Safety Project

Fission Stories #200

The Watts Bar Nuclear Plant near Spring City, Tennessee has two pressurized water reactors (PWRs) like that shown in Figure 1. Water flowing through the reactor core gets heated to over 500°F, but does not boil because pressure of over 2,000 pounds per square inch prevents it. The heated water flows through tubes inside the steam generators. Heat conducted through the thin metal walls of the tubes boils water surrounding the tubes. The steam flows through a turbine that spins a generator to make electricity. Read more >

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Frazzled at FitzPatrick

, director, Nuclear Safety Project

Fission Stories #199

The James A. FitzPatrick nuclear plant near Oswego, New York has one boiling water reactor (BWRs) with a Mark I containment design. Water flowing through BWR cores is heated to boiling with the steam flowing through turbine/generator to make electricity. Steam exits the turbines and flows past thousands of tubes within the condenser. Water from the lake flowing inside the tubes cools the steam and transforms it into water. The condensed steam is pumped to the reactor vessel to make more steam. Read more >

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Commendable Catch at Calvert Cliffs

, director, Nuclear Safety Project

Fission Stories #198

The owner of the two reactors at the Calvert Cliffs Nuclear Power Plant near Lusby, Maryland informed the NRC on March 20, 2015, about a maintenance practice that could have prevented emergency systems from fulfilling their safety functions during an accident. Read more >

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The Saturday Night Live Approach to Nuclear Safety: More Cowbell!

, director, Nuclear Safety Project

Fission Stories #197

The April 8, 2000, Saturday Night Live broadcast featured a skit with cast members pretending to be the rock group Blue Oyster Cult in the recording studio with a famous music producer, played by actor Christopher Walken. The skit is remembered for Walken’s character stating “I gotta have more cowbell.”

The NRC’s Reactor Oversight Process (ROP) needs more cowbell, too. Read more >

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Atomic Speedometers

, director, Nuclear Safety Project

Fission Stories #196

Local, state and federal officials post limits on how fast people can drive their vehicles along roads under normal conditions. The posted speed limits are risk-informed because vary from road to road depending on risk factors such as congestion and access options. Read more >

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