Nuclear safety covers the actions taken to prevent nuclear and radiation accidents or to limit their consequences. This covers nuclear power plants as well as all other nuclear facilities, the transportation of nuclear materials, and the use and storage of nuclear materials for medical, power, industry, and military uses.
Although there is no way to guarantee that a reactor will always be designed, built and operated safely, the nuclear power industry has improved the safety and performance of reactors, and has proposed safer reactor designs, though many of these designs have yet to be tested at industrial or commercial scales. Mistakes do occur and the designers of reactors at Fukushima in Japan did not anticipate that a tsunami generated by an earthquake would disable the backup systems that were supposed to stabilize the reactor after the earthquake. According to UBS AG, the Fukushima I nuclear accidents have cast doubt on whether even an advanced economy like Japan can master nuclear safety. Catastrophic scenarios involving terrorist attacks are also conceivable.
An interdisciplinary team from MIT have estimated that given the expected growth of nuclear power from 2005 – 2055, at least four serious nuclear accidents would be expected in that period. To date, there have been five serious accidents (core damage) in the world since 1970 (one at Three Mile Island in 1979; one at Chernobyl in 1986; and three at Fukushima-Daiichi in 2011), corresponding to the beginning of the operation of generation II reactors. This leads to on average one serious accident happening every eight years worldwide. Despite these accidents, the safety record of nuclear power, in terms of lives lost per unit of electricity delivered, is better than every other major source of power in the world.
Nuclear weapon safety, as well as the safety of military research involving nuclear materials, is generally handled by agencies different from those that oversee civilian safety, for various reasons, including secrecy. There are ongoing concerns about terrorist groups acquiring nuclear bomb-making material.
Read more about Nuclear Safety: Overview of Nuclear Processes and Safety Issues, Responsible Agencies, Hazards of Nuclear Material, Improvements To Nuclear Fission Technologies, Safety Culture and Human Errors, Risks, Black Swan Events, Beyond Design Basis Events, Transparency and Ethics, Nuclear and Radiation Accidents, Health Impacts, Developing Countries, Nuclear Weapons Plant Security, Fusion Power
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