threemileisland


Nuclear Worker Training

, former director, Nuclear Safety Project

Disaster by Design/ Safety by Intent #56

Safety by Intent

The Nuclear Waste Policy Act (NWPA) of 1982, as later amended in 1987, is best known for tasking the Department of Energy (DOE) with siting, constructing, and operating a geological repository for the long-term disposal of spent fuel from commercial nuclear power plants. It is less well-known that Section 306 of the NWPA tasked the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) with enacting regulations for the training and qualification of nuclear power plant workers.

The DOE has thus far failed its assigned mission and the federal government has paid out several billion dollars to parties across the country for damages incurred as a result of the failure. Fortunately, the NRC succeeded—albeit with some prodding from a public interest group and the courts—in its assigned mission, and not just by comparison to DOE’s ineptitude. Read more >

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Nuclear Bathtub Safety

, former 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 Accidents: Three Mile Island

, former director, Nuclear Safety Project

Disaster by Design/Safety by Intent #42

Disaster by Design

At 4:00 am on March 28, 1979, workers at the Three Mile Island (TMI) nuclear plant near Harrisburg, Pennsylvania were preparing to restart the Unit 1 reactor from a refueling outage. The Unit 2 reactor was marking its first anniversary—exactly one year earlier, a nuclear chain reaction had been achieved for the first time. A series of events over the next 135 minutes would end Unit 2’s life and delay Unit 1’s restart for several years. Read more >

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Reactor Core Damage: Meltdown

, former director, Nuclear Safety Project

Disaster by Design/Safety by Intent #26

Disaster by Design

We often talk and write about equipment failures and/or worker mistakes that increased the chances of reactor core damage. And much is reported about damaged reactor cores, such as during the five years since three reactor cores at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant in Japan became damaged. This commentary explains how a reactor core overheats and melts down. Read more >

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Command and Control

, former director, Nuclear Safety Project

Disaster by Design/Safety by Intent #17

Disaster by Design

Command and control is often used to describe the authority of military leaders in directing armed forces in battle. It can also refer to senior managers at nuclear power plants and the resources they command and control to fend off safety challenges.

Faulty intelligence, or flawed situational awareness, undermines command and control when leaders have the wrong understanding of hazards and/or response capabilities. Read more >

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