When we consider safety and security – there are a number of problems that can affect uranium mining and milling, nuclear power plants, nuclear transport, nuclear waste disposal, nuclear weapons arsenal.
There are the perennial issues of defective technology, human error, malicious damage, accidents – and so on. An accident involving nuclear technology can have catastrophic, far-reaching effects.
However much effort they put into safety and security, and however small the chance of serious events, the risk for this industry is far greater than for any other.
Just a few of the problem issues are listed below
SAFETY ISSUES Plants Aging and Failing NRC records (USA) show that commercial nuclear plants experienced nearly 200 significant reported safety problems between 1986 and 2006. Some of those were extremely serious. For example, in March 2002, a six inch hole was discovered in the aging reactor vessel at the Davis-Besse reactor in Ohio. This left only a thin layer of stainless steel to prevent a catastrophic loss of the reactor’s coolant which could have resulted in a core meltdown and release of highly radioactive materials into the environment. Despite these problems, the federal government is moving to relicense plants that already are beyond their designed lifespan.
No Place for Waste Every plant generates highly radioactive nuclear waste and we have no place to safely store it. Currently, much of the spent nuclear fuel is stored in pools of water adjacent to the reactors. If a pool were accidentally or intentionally drained it could lead to a serious fire spewing highly radioactive material into the air. A report from Brookhaven National Laboratory found that such an incident could cause as many as 28,000 cancer fatalities, cause $59 billion in damage, and render 188 square miles unfit for habitation.
No Control Over Nature
Nuclear plants are also vulnerable to natural disaster. In the summer of 2007, an earthquake damaged a large nuclear plant in Northwestern Japan, caused 50 problems and spilled radioactive water into the Sea of Japan.
Targets According to the 9/11 Commission Report, hijackers had originally planned to crash a plane into a nuclear power plant on September 11 but changed their plans. This could have been catastrophic since, according to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, none of the 103 operating nuclear reactors was designed to withstand the impact of a Boeing 767 jetliner. 21 of those reactors are located within five miles of an airport.
Infiltration Nuclear facilities have limited security forces and there are serious questions about whether those forces are capable of fending off a terrorist attack. Only this summer guards were fired after they were found to be sleeping at the Peach Bottom nuclear plant in southcentral Pennsylvania. Security guards at only one of four nuclear power plants are confident their plant could defeat a terrorist attack, according to interviews conducted by the Project on Government Oversight.
Theft The theft of nuclear material from a reactor, storage facility or enrichment plant could allow terrorists to build a dirty bomb or a nuclear device. It takes less than 10 kg of enriched uranium and less than 3 kilograms of plutonium to build a nuclear bomb. The technology for bomb making is now widely available. – from http://www.foe.org/
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