Editor’s note: This article is part of a collection of expert commentary on nuclear safety published on the tenth anniversary of the Fukushima disaster, produced in a collaboration between the Project on Managing the Atom at Harvard Kennedy School and the Bulletin.
At last week’s Harvard Belfer Center conference on nuclear safety and security lessons from the Chernobyl and Fukushima Daiichi disasters, international experts reflected on matters of preparation, operation, governance, and mitigation related to minimizing and managing nuclear risks.
Niels Bohr introduced the principle of complementarity to physics in 1927, but he also urged its wider application as an epistemological tool. He believed that insights could be gained by weighing two competing desiderata, for example the value of tradition vs. innovation. His technique was evident in the lessons arising from last week’s dialogue among speakers. These lessons include:
There was a final vital lesson with no obverse. Nuclear operators and regulators have failed to internalize and act on the risk of a spent fuel cooling pond fire—which was avoided only by extraordinary luck at Fukushima Daiichi. Whether arising from an attack or an accident, such a fire would have disastrous consequences.
Aditi Verma wisely urged policy-makers and operators to adopt epistemic pluralism. Were they to do so, it would advance Bohr’s principle of complementarity at a systemic level and consequently strengthen nuclear safety and security.
Read more expert commentaries in this collection »
The Bulletin elevates expert voices above the noise. But as an independent, nonprofit media organization, our operations depend on the support of readers like you. Help us continue to deliver quality journalism that holds leaders accountable. Your support of our work at any level is important. In return, we promise our coverage will be understandable, influential, vigilant, solution-oriented, and fair-minded. Together we can make a difference.