Nuclear energy gets a lot of bad press. But a bulk of the misconceptions about the industry can be attributed to a lack of information. Nuclear energy comes in much lower than other industries in occupational injuries according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Their 2013 figures cite only .1 thousand cases in 2013, compared to 51.4 thousand in agriculture, forestry, fishing and hunting, and 197.8 thousand in construction.
What People Don’t Know About The Nuclear Energy Industry:
- Nuclear energy has less impact on the environment than other energy sources.
- Commercial nuclear power operations are active in 33 countries.
- All told, there have been nearly fifteen thousand reactor-years of operation.
- The death rate is substantially lower for nuclear energy, with just .04 deaths per terawatt-hours (TWh), compared to 161 for coal and 36 for oil.
- Only three major accidents have occurred in the industry. For the most part, those accidents were quickly contained.
Potential Safety Issues:
The industry is very much aware of these risks and takes steps to prevent and mitigate them.
Meltdowns and Accidents. The Three Mile Island accident is thought to have been a product of human error and the Chernobyl incident was caused by flawed, outdated design. Safety improvements have been enacted throughout the industry with the intent to avoid similar issues.
Nuclear Waste. Spent fuel is stored in pools on-site, but is soon removed from the pools and moved to on or off-site long-term storage where it is stable and secure.
Natural Disasters. The Fukushima plant was located in a seismically unstable location. It did handle the earthquake with no issues, but the subsequent tsunami was higher than what was designed for. That is what caused the subsequent loss of cooling and meltdown of the core. Existing plants are being examined for similar risks, and this factor will be taken into account for future construction.
Security Issues. Since 2001, the Nuclear Regulatory Agency has substantially increased precautions at U.S. nuclear power plants. Security perimeters have been extended and strengthened; security patrols increased and barriers installed along with high-tech surveillance equipment.
How Can Nuclear Energy Producers Ensure Safety?
- High-quality design
- Careful construction
- Regular monitoring and testing
- Redundant safety systems
- Damage control strategies
- Containment provisions
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