How is nuclear safe?

The safety of operational personnel is one of the main concerns in nuclear power plants. Radiation exposure is minimized by the use of remote handling equipment for many operations in the reactor core. Other controls include physical shielding and limiting the time workers spend in areas with significant radiation levels. Despite public concerns, the data clearly show that nuclear energy is a much safer source of energy than fossil fuels.

Recent innovations could soon reduce risks even further. Study after study in major scientific journals found that nuclear power plants are by far the safest way to produce reliable electricity. So why are we so afraid of them? The radioactivity of these wastes can range from levels slightly higher than natural background levels, such as in the case of tailings from uranium mills, to the much higher radioactivity of used (spent) reactor fuel and parts of nuclear reactors. Great article, and it's good to see some quiet facts rather than antinuclear tirades with little or no perspective on comparative facts to support your views.

Surprisingly, nuclear energy is the benchmark to overcome, surpassing coal, oil, gas and even wind by a slight margin as the main least deadly energy resource in application (see Figure. In addition, coal-fired power plants release more radioactive material per kWh to the environment in the form of coal ash than waste from a nuclear power plant under standard shielding protocols. There is also the fact that the nuclear industry has a history of error in its risk analysis. Despite this, nuclear energy used for electricity production has been in decline since 2001 and now represents only a tenth of the world total.

Therefore, the question should not be: “Is nuclear energy deadly?” Instead, we must ask ourselves “is nuclear energy more dangerous than other energy sources?” Ensuring nuclear safety also requires the availability of suitably qualified personnel, the establishment of an effective safety culture in the workforce, the funding of research on operational and safety issues, and an appropriate focus on safety. However, the difference is that what is at stake with nuclear energy is much greater than what is at stake with other energy sources. Nuclear energy could never and will never be a good response to climate change because the climate will have already gone to hell long before enough nuclear power plants can be built to stop the process. An evaluation by the Commissariat à l'Énergie Atomique (CEA) in France concluded that no amount of technical innovation can eliminate the risk of human-induced errors associated with the operation of nuclear power plants.

Nuclear power plants use fissionable materials to produce energy in the form of heat, which is converted into electricity by a conventional power plant. The KANUPP plant in Karachi, Pakistan, has the largest number of 8.2 million people living within a 30-kilometer radius of a nuclear power plant, although it has only a relatively small reactor with a power of 125 megawatts. The main proposal for long-term storage of nuclear waste is to bury it in carefully selected deep geological deposits.