Nuclear Safety Culture: A Work of Smart

, former director, Nuclear Safety Project | September 25, 2013, 9:32 am EST
Bookmark and Share

Considerable resources have been given to the safety culture at nuclear power plants and within the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) over the past decade. Safety culture is a challenging subject for nuclear technologists to handle because it does not lend itself to equations and computer analysis. Safety culture is a work of art.

Paul Blanch, my colleague and close friend, has authored a report titled “Safety Culture Is Not Possible Without Regulatory Compliance”  about safety culture. Paul certainly has the credentials and experience to speak from. A whistleblower himself, Paul was driven from the nuclear power industry via a process he terms “ethical cleansing.” When such antics finally caught up to his former company and placed it on the cover of TIME in March 1996, Paul was re-hired as a consultant to help the company instill the proper safety culture at Millstone and its other nuclear plants. Paul subsequently assisted other plant owners avoid or recover from safety culture problems.

UCS is pleased to help Paul’s report find the audience it deserves. There’s a large audience that needs to understand Paul’s perspectives on this important topic.

The theme of Paul’s report focuses on an element that is all-too-often missing from safety culture programs. As Paul writes in the very first paragraph of his report:

To truly achieve nuclear safety, “regulatory compliance and enforcement” must be the frame used to gauge Nuclear Safety Culture.

Paul later notes that:

The shortest (or surest) path to nuclear safety is achieved by compliance with NRC regulations.

Paul’s commentary reflects UCS’s experience of over four decades on nuclear power safety issues. There have been times when UCS contended that existing regulatory requirements did not provide adequate protection of public health and advocated raising the safety bar. But most of the time, we are trying to get plant owners to comply with and the NRC to enforce the existing requirements. In other words, it’s insufficient to establish the safety bar at the proper height only to watch nuclear reactors limbo beneath it.

Paul has distilled experience from a quarter century of hands-on experience into a well-written and well-organized report. For a minor investment of time, readers can gain a wealth of insights. If Ben Franklin was right about an ounce of prevention being worth a pound of cure, Paul provides several ounces. Or, folks can neglect Paul’s warnings and volunteer for the pounding cure that Millstone, Davis-Besse, Palo Verde, and Fort Calhoun endured.


Posted in: Nuclear Power Safety Tags: , ,

Support from UCS members make work like this possible. Will you join us? Help UCS advance independent science for a healthy environment and a safer world.

Show Comments

Comment Policy

UCS welcomes comments that foster civil conversation and debate. To help maintain a healthy, respectful discussion, please focus comments on the issues, topics, and facts at hand, and refrain from personal attacks. Posts that are commercial, self-promotional, obscene, rude, or disruptive will be removed.

Please note that comments are open for two weeks following each blog post. UCS respects your privacy and will not display, lend, or sell your email address for any reason.

  • Joyce Agresta

    This article demonstrates on going criminal negligence ! Negligent endangerment of millions of men women and children. Sugar coating the near misses with a fifty thousand page document every other day of the week makes it no less harmful. This is a familiar method of operation. This is the Nuclear Industry. It is amazing with all the near misses there as of yet haven’t been more hits. One might reasonable presume there will be.

    Awaken you dreamers ! Much like the NRC you too offer an illusory promise.
    If you where to be granted all forty wishes of compliance the industry would grow. Your accomplishment would be prolonging the lives of nuclear reactors that produce just what benefits and to whom ? Benefit VS Risk.
    What is good for some in the moment may not lead to the best possible future.

    Where as many have indeed fulfilled a duty to report to the NRC. What where the outcomes? Every time this industry grows so does nuclear fall out. The eventuality will be a mostly uninhabitable Planet.

    Collect your forty wishes if you may. What do you think the outcome will be ? Why revive the dragon when its almost dead ? Let the industry kill itself. The eventuality of severe accidents should be sooner rather than latter if there is to be a habitable portion of the planet left.
    When the Nuclear party is over and the monies all been spent who minds the mess? It’s likely left where it is as what it is. Less is preferable to more any which way you measure it.

    If for reasons not unveiled the nuclear industry’s goal is to create despair and destruction then they are making progress. And the current regulatory efforts appropriate.

    “Like a child with forty wishes, on the river of no return.” Jeff Healy