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TVA’s Nuclear Allegators

, director, Nuclear Safety Project

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) receives reports about potential safety problems from plant workers, the public, members of the news media, and elected officials. The NRC calls these potential safety problems allegations, making the sources allegators. In the five years between 2012 and 2016, the NRC received 450 to 600 allegations each year. The majority of the allegations involve the nuclear power reactors licensed by the NRC. Read more >

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Ad Hoc Fire Protection at Nuclear Plants Not Good Enough

, director, Nuclear Safety Project

A fire at a nuclear reactor is serious business. There are many ways to trigger a nuclear accident leading to damage of the reactor core, which can result in the release of radiation. But according to a senior manager at the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), for a typical nuclear reactor, roughly half the risk that the reactor core will be damaged is due to the risk of fire. In other words, the odds that a fire will cause an accident leading to core damage equals that from all other causes combined. And that risk estimate assumes the fire protection regulations are being met. 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 Plant Containment Failure: Isolation Devices

, director, Nuclear Safety Project

Disaster by Design/Safety by Intent #32

Disaster by Design

Containment structures at nuclear power plants have multiple purposes. Containments protect vital safety equipment from damage caused from external events like high winds and the debris they can fling. And containments protect nearby communities against radiation released from reactor cores damaged during accidents. Read more >

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Browns Ferry – Blowin’ (it) in the Wind

, director, Nuclear Safety Project

Disaster by Design/Safety by Intent #24

Disaster by Design

The Browns Ferry Nuclear Plant near Athens, Alabama has three boiling water reactors (BWRs). Like Russian, or Alabamian, dolls, the reactor core resides inside the reactor pressure vessel inside the primary containment inside the secondary containment (Fig. 1). The secondary containment consists of the reactor building and the refueling bay. At Browns Ferry, the refueling bay spans across all three reactor buildings. Read more >

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