A new report from the US National Academy of Sciences says not enough is being done to prevent worst case scenario nuclear accidents. We agree.
A year after the Fukushima nuclear disaster began in March 2011…
… the Max Planck Institute for Chemistry in Mainz […] calculated that such events may occur once every 10 to 20 years (based on the current number of reactors) — some 200 times more often than estimated in the past.
Unfortunately, the nuclear industry and its supporters both inside and outside governments didn't pay much attention.
Skip forward and another group of scientists warns of the dangers of devastating nuclear accidents and how not enough it being done to even consider them let alone prevent them. They argue that too little thinking is done about the "freakishly unusual" that can cause a nuclear disaster.
The new warnings come in a report by US National Academy of Sciences.
"You have to totally change your mode of thinking because complacency and hubris is the worst enemy to nuclear safety," said University of Southern California engineering professor Najmedin Meshkati, a technical adviser to the Academy's panel.
Complacency and hubris? Two words that sum up the nuclear industry perfectly.
We've been told repeatedly over the years that the odds of a nuclear meltdown are astronomical. Yet we've seen five – one at Three Mile Island, one at Chernobyl, and three at Fukushima – in the last 35 years.
And that doesn't count the number of near misses we've had over the years.
In 2006, there was a serious incident at Sweden's Forsmark nuclear power station, in which "it was pure luck there wasn't a meltdown" according to a former director of the plant.
In 2010, the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) identified 14 near misses at US nuclear reactors in that one year alone. In 2012, it found 12. The UCS says the US's nuclear watchdog, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, "has repeatedly failed to enforce essential safety regulations."
How about security at nuclear power plants that is so lax, people can enter at will? We've seen that in Sweden, France and elsewhere. Greenpeace activists always go to these places with peaceful intent. Others may not have such pure motives.
The clock is ticking on the next catastrophic nuclear accident and not enough is being done to prevent it.
The nuclear industry claims to have learned the lessons of Fukushima but in reality it's been business as usual ever since. For example, the "stress tests" of EU nuclear reactors in the wake of the Fukushima disaster were found to be full of flaws, blind spots and – that word again – complacency.
As we're seeing at Fukushima, containing and cleaning up a major nuclear accident tests human ingenuity to its limits. Indeed, with ongoing problems and failures at Fukushima, it sometimes looks beyond our technical abilities as a species.
The only safe nuclear power station is a shut-down power station, but until the day the last reactor is closed, the nuclear industry has an obligation to the people it's supposed to serve (you know, me and you) to have the tightest and most forward thinking of safety procedures.
And if the industry won't do it for us, maybe they should to it for their shareholders, the people it regards as more important that than us poor saps who merely buy their electricity and have to live in the shadows of their reactors.
If consideration for ordinary people is beyond them, surely the threat of a major nuclear accident to their profits should be enough to motivate them?
Justin McKeating is a nuclear blogger for Greenpeace International, based in the UK.