Nuclear Disasters Essay Research Paper Nuclear DisastersToday

Nuclear Disasters Essay, Research Paper

Nuclear Disasters

Today in our energy hungry world, the reliance on nuclear power is getting larger

and larger. Nuclear power is on top of the list of forms of power available to

generate electricity in the quantities, forms and reliability needed as we head

towards the 21st century. Current operating nuclear plants number approximately

430 through out 26 countries .

Nuclear energy production will grow an average of 3.3 to 4.2% Per Year

worldwide from 1988-2005 (IAEA News briefs, Sept.1989). Though we have

experienced if not the worst techno genic environmental disaster of the 20th century

fourteen years ago – Chernobyl, together with the partial meltdown at Three Mile

Island twenty-one years ago, most people today give only passing thoughts to the

issue of nuclear safety worldwide. These two cases are only mere examples of the

ominous potential for accidents of great magnitude within such nuclear plants

worldwide. It is vital that we understand both the logic and outcomes of such

disasters. Today fourteen years later, effects of Chernobyl are still hazardous and

have been detected all over the world. Belarus, a country most affected by history’s

worst nuclear disaster does not even have a nuclear plant. The radiation released

from Chernobyl was 200 times more than that of the combined releases of the

atom bombs that annihilated Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945. Due to prevailing

winds, 25 percent of the land in Belarus is uninhabitable. All normal life has stopped

there, people are afraid to move, stay, marry and afraid to have families. The costs

of the accidents after-effects are monumental; resettlement of people affected,

medical and clean-up costs are just a few on the priority list.

The problem lies in ignorance of interactions between human, engineering,

organizational and managerial factors of such a system. In most cases human error is

customarily cited as a major cause of the problem. Sometimes in my mind I cannot

blame the operators involved, reason being that the control rooms of such plants are

a maze of complex displays and controls spread over an array of many rooms. In

the case of an emergency, due to the mere size and complexity of such rooms,

errors are just begging to occur. Error is also a combination of many factors such as

ineffective training, intricate operating procedures, and natural disasters. Usually the

direction taken to ensure safety at such nuclear plants is one of tending to find an

engineering solution. If the above mentioned factors together with the use of safety

and human factors in the engineering education for such large-scale technological

systems are used, then we would be heading the right direction; a safer, productive

life not only for us but for our environment as well. Nuclear regulation is the public’s


Politics, resource and structural problems are another major cause. For example here

in the US, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) was set up as the major

regulatory agency. Under staffed and under skilled employees are just one of their

obstacles. Relying on the fact that the industry itself is responsible for safety tests on

plants, the NRC has over looked many issues while tending to focus on matters with

greatest safety importance. We should all know that system failures can be traced to

all those small components that make up this human/machine interface. Whenever

we have such components fitted together and are in interaction it is crucial to give

weight not only to the human and technological factors but also to how they operate

together. The NRC’s relationship with the industry has been suspect since its

creation in 1974. Operations of such regulatory agencies worldwide is greatly

influenced by the member states (IAEA) who have such nuclear operating plants.

The power of money in hand and foreign relation policies of these states control the

acts and decisions of such agencies. Structural troubles include the fact that it is

only optional for member states to comply with or use safety principles set by the

International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in 1986 . Thus there is no clear cut

accord by IAEA member states on the issue of complying with safety standards.

Lack of Safety is yet another obstacle. Many nuclear plants in Central and

Eastern Europe (e.g. Ukraine) are just time bombs waiting to blow. Many of these

plants have not yet collapsed probably due the fact that combination of events

needed for failure has not yet occurred or that they have just not been given enough

time. Hence it is high time that the international community and the G-7 get

involved. The problem(s) in this industry needs to be tackled collectively, no one

is in a position today to solve this complex field of science and practice individually,

irrespective of depth of education or dedication. Political, economic and cultural

barriers have to be crushed if we are to achieve this. A collaborative effort

worldwide, especially from the West is needed to form, support a research team, to

counter and unravel studies, develop universal policies and to staff such nuclear

plants if we are to avoid any more Chernobyl’s in the future. Future Chernobyl’s can

be avoided but it is up to us. Firstly we must make space for reality to take

precedence over public relations for any successful technology, as we cannot fool

nature . Secondly much greater guarantees, co-operation and communication is

needed between the industry, the regulatory agencies and the member states. Safety

will only be achieved if ALL those involved play their part whole heartedly and

honestly right down from the plant workers through the manufacturers and

regulatory agencies right up to the financial institutions that control this whole


Overall, I?m trying to convey that safety is key in the nuclear power plants. A major

nuclear meltdown would be a global concern. To prevent this we need to form,

support and research teams, to develop universal policies and to staff nuclear plants

if we are to avoid any more Chernobyl’s or TMI?s in the future. Human error was

the root of the problem in these two catastrophes, so to prevent this from happening

again the government needs to put trained and licenced nuclear engineers to work

who know what they are doing, especially if a problem is to arise.



1. N. Meshkati. ?Los Angeles Herald Examiner?, March 28, 1989.

2. M. Specter ?New York Times?, March 31, 1996.

3. E. Pooley ?Time Magazine?, March 4, 1996.

4. N.Meshkati. ?Foreign Policy Journal?; U.N. 50th Anniversary, The Critical Role of The U.N.

Ensuring the Safety of Nuclear Power Plants Around The World”.

5. Pringle, Laurence. Nucular Energy Troubled Past Uncertain Future. New York: Macmillan

Publishing Company, 1989.

6. Lampton, Christopher. Nuclear Accident. Brookfield, CT: The Millbrook Press, 1992


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