Thursday, December 25, 2008

Nuclear Safety and Risk Assessment

BrooklynDodger(s) comments: As pressure mounts for new expansion of nuclear power, the risk assessment battle will resume. The canonical example of public "misperception" of risk is the often published table comparing risk from a nuclear accident to the risk from driving to the grocery store. For the purpose of this blog posting, the Dodger(s) won't address the overall topic.
However, this press account reminds us that any industrial process has all sorts of unanticipated ways it can go wrong... can go wrong... can go wrong....

Nuclear safety left hanging as crane dangled fuel rods
Michigan incident got warning but no fine

March 18, 2006

"A 110-ton load of nuclear waste dangled for 55 hours above a cooling pool last October as two workers at a southwest Michigan nuclear power plant improperly manipulated a crane that had frozen, federal regulators concluded in a recent review of the incident

"...Under the NRC's worst-case scenario, if the suspended load had accidentally dropped, a fire could have ignited, leading to formation of a radioactive cloud. The cloud could have put thousands of people downwind of the plant -- all the way to Kalamazoo -- at risk of fatal radiation poisoning....

The scariest nuclear accident in Michigan was the 1966 partial meltdown of the Fermi 1 nuclear reactor near Monroe that inspired the 1975 book "We Almost Lost Detroit."...
Plant officials maintained that only 1% of the uranium fuel melted, but critics say the plant came close to a runaway reaction that could have killed people for miles around the plant.
No radiation was released, but the plant never returned to useful operation."

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