An expert on the safety of nuclear power plants comes to the conclusion that there is simply no such thing as an 100 percent safe nuclear reactor. Via Miller-McCune:
I soon came to the conclusion that neither international cooperation nor technological advancements would guarantee human societies to build and safely run nuclear reactors in all possible conditions on Earth (earthquakes, floods, droughts, tornadoes, wars, terrorism, climate change, tsunamis, pandemics, etc.). I am sadly reminded of this turning point in my life as I listen to the news about the earthquake, tsunami and extremely worrying nuclear crisis in Japan.
When Italy decided in the mid-’70s to add nuclear power to its power portfolio, young mechanical and nuclear engineer Cesare Silvi was among those attracted to the opportunities it presented. His work centered on nuclear safety issues — in particular, what might happen if something unexpected struck a power plant.
Corners he saw cut there eventually soured Silvi on that endeavor. His next position — at the Italian Commission on Nuclear and Alternative Energy Sources, which included work on nuclear disarmament — eventually soured him on nuclear energy itself.
“[If we] continue with nuclear power, there will definitely be worse accidents,” he argued in the wake of Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi disaster. Over the weekend, Italian voters agreed and overwhelming rejected restarting nuclear power in their country.
“Why not consider Three Mile Island, Chernobyl and Fukushima as warnings of greater catastrophes to come and avoid the inevitable by shutting them down, much like changing your diet and/or lifestyle after finding out that your cholesterol or blood pressure is elevated, rather than continuing down the same path until a heart attack or stroke strikes?”
“I was looking at low-possibility events, like a meteor striking the housing of a reactor or a car thrown at it by a tornado. These definitely had a small chance of happening, but the end result would have been horrific.” Plus, he says now, the proliferation of nuclear plants just adds more targets.
“Many laughed at such speculation and planning,” he says, “but then again, how many would have taken seriously a recommendation of extending the height of the seawall at Fukishima another six meters? They would have questioned your sanity, if you had argued that the 10-meter barrier was inadequate.
“Our problem is that we don’t know what will happen on any scale of time. Such uncertainty is OK when dealing with train trips or dinner choices. But it becomes problematic when considering the possible spread of very dangerous material that will stay deadly for hundreds, if not thousands, of years.”
“Human history is full of madness, full of catastrophes. Imagine if we had nuclear reactors when we fought wars in the past. If you try to consider all the events that might happen over the years, you start to ask, ‘What are the benefits of such an effort, especially when you have opportunities to get electricity in many other ways?’”