1 September 2011

Surviving the one-two nuclear punch: Assessing risk and policy in a post-Fukushima world

Edwin S. Lyman

A physicist, Lyman is a senior staff scientist in the Global Security Program at the Union of Concerned Scientists...

The nuclear industry has claimed that a Fukushima-type event is unlikely to happen in the United States, because few US nuclear power plants are vulnerable to tsunamis. But to some degree, every nuclear plant is vulnerable to natural disaster or deliberate attack, and no nuclear plant can be assumed to withstand an event more severe than the “design-basis accidents” it was engineered to withstand. Many US nuclear plants appear to be subject to greater risks than they were designed to handle, particularly in regard to earthquakes. The author suggests that the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission should expand the universe of events that new and existing nuclear plants must be designed to survive and require reactors to be upgraded accordingly.