Magazine Article - Science

Preventing the Next Fukushima

| September 16, 2011

POLICYFORUM Nuclear Safety

Weak authority and largely voluntary standards limit global institutions' impact on nuclear safety and security.

While this year's disaster at Japan's Fukushima Dai'ichi plant, the worst since Chernobyl in 1986, was caused by the one-two punch of a huge earthquake followed by an immense tsunami—a disaster unlikely to occur in many locations—it revealed technical and institutional weaknesses that must be fixed around the world. If nuclear power is to grow on the scale required to be a significant part of the solution to global climate disruption or scarcity of fossil fuels, major steps are needed to rebuild confidence that nuclear facilities will be safe from accidents and secure against attacks ( 1).

It is too soon to draw all the lessons from the Fukushima disaster. But it is clear that the reactors' abilities to maintain cooling in the event of a prolonged loss of power and to vent dangerous gas buildups were insufficient, as were the operators' ability to respond to large-scale emergencies and the regulators' degree of independence from the nuclear industry ( 2). Operators and regulators around the world are reviewing their nuclear safety measures and responding to heightened public concerns. Governments' conclusions have ranged from China's plan to continue its massive nuclear construction effort to Germany's decision to phase out all nuclear energy by 2022....

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1. M. Bunn, M. Malin, Innovations: Tech. Gov. Global. 4, 173 (2009).

2. Nuclear Emergency Response Headquarters, Report of Japanese Government to the IAEA Ministerial Conference on Nuclear Safety: The Accident at TEPCO's Fukushima Power Stations (Government of Japan, Tokyo, 2011).

 

From Bunn, Matthew and Olli Heinonen. "Preventing the Next Fukushima." Science 333, September 16, 2011: 1580–1581. Reprinted with permission from AAAS

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For Academic Citation: From Bunn, Matthew and Olli Heinonen. "Preventing the Next Fukushima." Science 333, September 16, 2011: 1580–1581.

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