Do you believe in safety of atomic reactor?
Not long before the first anniversary of Fukushima catastrophe International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) published press release in which the main causes of this accident were generalized. Tsunami was only the trigger of accident. All four causes were human:
- The nuclear regulator was not sufficiently independent, allowing weak oversight of the operator
- Not enough attention was paid to guarding against possible extreme events
- Training to respond to serious accidents was inadequate
- Accident command lines were unclear and response plans not sufficiently integrated
Human failings such as these are not unique to Japan. Press release was optimistic: "We humans learn from our mistakes. Countries around the world are searching out the weak links in their own systems, and taking action to strengthen them. Nuclear safety is stronger than it was a year ago."
Safety became stronger and stronger with every lesson - Three Mile Island accident, Chernobyl disaster, Fukushima catastrophe. Consequences of this lessons become heavier and heavier with every lesson. The question arises whether humanity will survive this education.
There are 435 operable nuclear reactors in the world, 61 more are now under construction. This number does not include research reactors and reactors constructed specially for military purposes. Nuclear power now supplies 14% of world electricity.
In France - 74%
In Russia - 17%
In USA - 19%
So it is clear that refusal to use atomic power is incredible, it will lead to collapse of many national economics. To the same it must be taken into account that cost of nuclear plant's closing is comparable with the cost of it's construction. We have no other way than believe in the efficiency of another new safety measures introduced after another nuclear disaster.
Unfortunately the causes of the accident often are investigated by the same men who are responsible for the disaster. In my youth in Soviet Union those who worked with radioactive materials were members of a sort of clan united by oath of nondisclosure. Most themes were one way or another connected with military problems. It suffices to say that the permissible equivalent absorbed radiation dose established by the state regulations for this type of workers exceeded the norm for ordinary people by 50 times.
Radiation is insidious. It is invisible, insensible to the hearing and touch. The man can not long be afraid of the things that doesn't exist in terms of his feelings. I well remember my first face to face encounter with the radioactive materials. I was a third year student of Moscow institute of engineering physics and for practise was sent to department that was researching fuel elements of atomic reactors. I was given a desk, tea mug and other necessary things. Removing things left in the boxes of the table by my predecessor I have found small tube not more than quarter of an inch in diameter. The tube was filled with small tablets that were very pleasant to touch. I tinkered with these tablets until my new chief said: "What for you lay out the uranium on the table?" The fact that radioactive materials freely lay in table box was not a surprise to him.
The whole system of our training based on the idea that radiation is not too dangerous. On one lecture we were told that the effect of radation on human body is unpredictable, sometimes it heals. One of our professors growled: "Radiation.. Radiation ... I have drunk the water from reactor and all is well".
During works on research reactor every worker received individual dosimeter for control of radiation dose. Dosimeters were of "closed" type without any visual scale. At the exit of the reactor's building dosimeters were collected by special officer. He inserted the dosimeters into reader and wrote the results for every worker into journal. On the question: "How much is the dose?" the answer was always the same: "It's none of your business!"
The average age of those who now make decisions on safety programs for nuclear stations is 50-60 years. This is the generation of those who was educated at the same time with me. We had the same teachers. Only when they retire I will believe in the effectiveness of safety programs on nuclear reactors. I hope never to here "it's none of your business".