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Topic 2: nuclear power

Henry Tan's picture

Safety Engineering and Risk Management Debate 2012

Discussion Topic 2: Is nuclear power safe for humans and the environment?


victor.adukwu's picture

Is nuclear power safe for humans and the environment?

4. Nuclear power is any method of
doing work that makes use of nuclear fission or fusion reactions. In its
broadest sense, the term refers both to the uncontrolled release of energy, as
in fission or fusion weapons, and to the controlled release of energy, as in a
nuclear power plant. Most commonly, however, the expression nuclear power is
reserved for the latter of these two processes.

The world's first exposure to nuclear power came when two
fission (atomic) bombs were exploded over Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan, in August 1945.
These actions are said to have brought World War II to
a conclusion [Cited 2012 Sep. 30]. Available from http: //
/nuclear_energy.aspx. After the war, a number of scientists and laypersons
looked for some potential peacetime use for this horribly powerful new form of
energy. They hoped that the power of nuclear energy could be harnessed to
perform work, but those hopes have been realized only to a modest degree. Some
serious problems associated with the use of nuclear power have never been
satisfactorily solved. As a result, after three decades of progress in the
development of controlled nuclear power, interest in this energy source has
leveled off and, in many nations, declined.

It is obvious that the actual intention of nuclear power was
for weapon, not for solving energy demand and therefore not safe for human and
the enviroment.

Etienne Gunter's picture

Victor, your comments on the intention of nuclear power is true; the initial
intention of it was for war. But, unfortunately this is exactly the field
where/when most technologies are developed. Countries spend enormous amounts of
funds yearly on the development of technologies for the defence industry.
Fortunately, wars do not last forever and in peace time, these technologies get
different applications.

 As you stated, the interests to utilise nuclear power has declined,
possibly due to the potential risk/danger (during an accident), but maybe
because there might still be cheaper alternatives around, i.e. coal and oil.
But the energy demand will only increase and I believe that industry has demonstrated
that nuclear power can be utilised safely as an energy source. 

My problem is that regulations governing the safe utilisation of many
industries (nuclear, oil, coal etc.) usually lags that of the
methods/practice/technologies implemented in the field. Take Aferban as an
example, only after a major accident (and enquiry) is regulation drawn up to prevent
a re-occurrence. This is a reactive approach and not necessarily a proactive
one. I wonder what the nuclear regulations were at the time of Chernobyl? My argument
is, that with proper regulation policies (thinking ahead), risk analyses and
management most things can be made safe to an acceptable level.

Henry Tan's picture

It seems that regulations are always driven by accidents, rather than set before accidents.

Mark Haley's picture

It is definitely the case in history that we have had to wait until a major accident/incident before a public enquiry has been launched to change regulation to try and ensure it never happened again.


The problem in the past with this has been that the regulations or restrictions that come as a result of the inquiry are prescriptive and do not allow common sense to prevail, nor do they keep up with changing technology.


However, since the recommendations from the Robens and then the Cullen inquiry the drive has been to reduce the amount of prescriptive legislation and use more goal setting legislation.  Whilst it took a serious incident for these two inquiries to be conducted, the good to come out of it are that the emphasis has been put back onto industry to ensure safety and that there is also accountability for this.

Additionally, the Cullen inquiry also recommended that the safety case regulations be reviewed after 10 years (this took place in 2005) with the regs being fine tuned.


There is a danger at the moment of us moving back towards a prescriptive regulatory regime with the rafts of EU law being enforced on the UK government.  This is where the UK HSE needs to resist adding more prescriptive and continue moving towards goal setting law and working closely with industry.  This has the benefit of helping industry to stay safe whilst reducing the administrative burden for government.

Mark Haley

Etienne Gunter's picture

Refering to your last paragraph.

The predicament with the implementation of any regulation is
that it costs money. With prescriptive regulation, you look at the rules, put
measures in place and then you are legally covered (irrespective of what
happens thereafter). The regulations are clear and you can tick off that you
have addressed everything. It is easy to determine when have you addressed all the areas, but how much buy-in (from the employer)
is actually created with prescriptive regulations?  You do not want to create the situation where
the employer is trying to out-fox the HSE, just in order to improve profit

I like the idea of goal setting regulations. It forces
companies to evaluate their work practices themselves. This however should be
done in consultation with the HSE (shared responsibility). One problem of goal setting regulation could be to determine when enough is enough. The fact that you
are evaluating your own practise, which you have to fund, makes the matter
subjective as the driving factor is to increase profit. Clear definitions and a shared responsibility could be measures to ensure the implementation of useful regulations.

Oluwasegun Onasanya's picture

The safety of any industry (Nuclear, oil and gas, manufacturing e.t.c.), is as a result of how wide and deep our thinking(positive) to preventing incidents or re-occurence of any incident have been.

The question of "what can go wrong",should always be asked as this brings about a proactive attitude which promotes the safety of people, equipment reliability and environment preservation.

There is always something to be made better, it could be the process, procedures, safety culture, technology, operational philosophy and the humans doing the job.

When this attitude is put in place, incidents will not be a yardstick for making regulations but there will be a proactive nature of addressing threats and hazards before they become incidents.

Oluwatosin A. Oyebade's picture

History agrees with Victor's opinions above on the origin of Nuclear energy sources, but it must be noted that the effectiveness and viability of a technology cannot be solely judged by its genesis, nor even by its occasional negative impacts on lives and the environment, for its general applicability and positive impact on human existence must be duly considered.

Although, Nuclear energy was first applied as a source of death and destruction, over the past few decades, it has brought smiles to the populace, providing electricit and a source of income for multitudes, and has grown steadily on the global energy roadmap, providing about 5.2% of global energy. With 5.2% of the global energy mix modestly estimated as 26.156 ExaJoules/yr, can this really be considered a "modest" degree? I vehemently disagree.

Although recent disasters (due to natural occurences and human negligence) have caused a few countries to veto future investments in Nuclear energy exploitation (Germany etc), it must be noted that the 2 major energy and economic superpowers (USA and China) have shunned this decision, and instead, have decided to increase Nuclear energy investment over the next few decades,
and an increasing number of growing economies have also indicated
interest in joining the league of peacetime nuclear producers/consumers
(Nigeria etc).

Conclusively, with an estimated Nuclear production of 46 ExaJoules/yr estimated in year 2050, it is obvious that except unforeseen circumstances arise, Nuclear energy would not be relegated to the background, and woud remain a major energy source on the Global Energy Mix.


Oluwatosin Oyebade

Msc Oil and Gas Engineering

Monday Michael's picture

I would like to respond to the post by Victor Adukwu,in which he argued that nuclear power as a source of energy should be discouraged . I am afraid I would have to disagree with his opinion and indeed those of other people that have made the same argument.  The use of nuclear power as a source of energy has existed way before the disasters of Fukushima and Chernobyl, Infact since the early 1930s. Research into the applicability of nuclear fission as asource of energy have been ongoing for several decades before then, spearheaded by Marie Curie, her husband Pierre Curie and Henri Becquerel in the late nineteenth century [1].


The US,Germany, France and Japan account for about 50% of the world’s total nuclearenergy generation [2] and only the US (Three Mile Island disaster), Russia(Chernobyl disaster, the Kursk and K-19 ) and Japan (Fukishima Nuclear meltdown) have suffered nuclear meltdowns; partial in the case of the Three Mile Islandand full in the case of Chernobyl and Fukushima.

The fatalities and long-term negative effects on humans and the environment from known nuclear power disasters such as Chernobyl, Three Mile Island, the Soviet submarine K-19[3], the Soviet submarine Kursk [4] and Fukishima may seem high and justify condemnation but discouraging the further use of nuclear power as a source of energy especially as worldwide energy demand increases would be tantamount to throwing the baby out with the bathwater. In most of these nuclear disasters, the fundamental cause of the accident or the failure event(s) is not in the nuclear fission process or the radiation itself, rather an extraneous event (tsunami in the case of Fukushima) that then leads to the main accident or meltdown.

Having said that, it is important to point out the positives from the use of nuclear power.Nuclear power as a source of energy is particularly suited for use in a number of engineering applications where fossil fuel/volatile vapour fuels cannot be used, such as in large surface ships (aircraft carriers, ice breakers) and submarines. The loss of fuel vapour and subsequent contact with any source of ignition especially in a confined space and underwater (in submarines) can bring about a whole set of challenges, hence the use of nuclear power.

My argument in a nutshell is that for as long as man’s desire for energy continues to rise,there is need to diversify the sourcing for energy from fossil fuel and nuclear power is a viable and safe option. What is required is that the operators to adhere to strict operational and safety guidelines.








Monday Michael's picture

 Sequel to my post/comment about the suitability of nuclear power as a viable option in diversification from fossil fuel as the main source of energy, I thought I should also talk about the disposal and management of radioactive waste, the end-product of the fission process. This is especially important because of the views held by the opponents of nuclear power; with figure 1 clearly depicting their concerns.


One of the most fascinating facts about nuclear power is the incredibly small amount of radioactive waste produced for the quantity of electricity produced [2]. Table 1 below provides a comparison between nuclear and coal and the corresponding amount of electricity produced:



Nuclear power plant
25 tons of Uranium
Approx. 25 tons of Uranium

Approx. 1 ton of fission products

500 pounds of Plutonium

A small amount of other actinide elements


3 million tons of coal
7 million tons of Carbon dioxide

200,000 tons of ash

30,000 tons of Sulphur oxide

10,000 tons of Nitrogen oxide



Table 1: Comparison of energy and waste produced for coal and nuclear fission [2]


Much of the waste from the fission process is radioactive and hazardous in nature hence the need to carefully manage its storage, transportation and disposal.



Figure 1: Radioactive waste [1]


Radioactivity arises from the decay of isotopes of certain elements. However, not all isotopes are radioactive in nature [1]. Radiation from these isoptopes can be divided into 3 groups essentially:


Alpha radiation-this cannot penetrate the skin and can be blocked out by a sheet of paper, it is however dangerous to the lungs


Beta radiation can penetrate the skin but can be blocked out by a sheet of aluminium foil


Gamma radiation can penetrate the skin/body and can only be blocked out by several centimeters of concrete.


The environment contains all of these radiation types and at low levels, they pose no health risk to humans. Figure 2 depicts this


Figure 2: Penetrating power of radioactive radiations [1]


Radioactive wastes comprise a variety of materials and for the purposes of managing radioactive materials and waste to protect humans and the environment, they are classified into 3 groups: low-level, medium-level and high-level wastes. This classification is based on the amount and types or radioactivity in the materials.

The discussion will center only on high-level radioactive (HLW), as it’s the intensely radioactive waste from the nuclear fission process from which nuclear power is generated [2].

The high-level radioactive waste (HLW) could be the radioactive fuel itself, or the principal waste separated from reprocessing the fuel. While it accounts for only 3% of the volume of the waste, it holds 95% of the radioactivity [1].


Another factor to be considered in radioactive waste management is the time that the materials are likely to remain hazardous. This essentially depends on the kinds of radioactive isotopes in them and the half-life characteristics of each isotope [1] (The half-life is the time it takes a given radioactive isotope to lose half of its radioactivity, for example after four half lives, the level of radioactivity is reduced to 1/16th of the original value, etc [1])

Radioactive isotopes have varying half-lives, ranging from fractions of a second to minutes, hours, or days, even to billions of years. The radioactivity of the isotopes decreases with time as the isotopes decay into stable, non –radioactive elements [1]


It has to be pointed out that HLW requires very expensive technology for it disposal. However, because there is so little of it (as shown in Table 1) and so much electricity produced from it, there is adequate money available for its treatment and disposal [2]. There are three main principles involved in the management of radioactive wastes:


  1. Concentrate-and-contain
  2. Dilute-and-disperse
  3. Delay-and-decay


Options 1 and 2 are used mainly for non-radioactive wastes in which case the waste is either concentrated and isolated, or it is diluted to an acceptable level and discharged into the environment [1]. Option 3 on the other hand is suited only for radioactive waste especially HLW; the waste is stored and its radioactivity is allowed to decrease naturally through decay of the radioisotopes [1]. For disposal, the waste in enclosed in very strong, corrosion-resistant, metallic containers and put in underground chambers (repository).  This process of storing in underground chambers is also known as geological disposal. The whole system is engineered in such a way that it can contain the waste intact and undisturbed for thousand of years [2].

The final disposal of HLW is delayed for about 40 to 50 years to allow its radioactivity to decay, after which less than one-thousandth of its original radioactivity is remains and it much easier to handle. This process of storing in vitrified vessels


The transportation of HLW can also pose health and environmental concerns. Fortunately, the transportation of spent fuel by railcar-mounted shipping casks and by tractor trailer-mounted casks has been demonstrated by about 3,000 shipments with no release of contained material in the relatively few accidents that have occurred [2].


There are two methods of treatment of the waste generated from the ‘back-end’ of the fuel cycle i.e the stage that covers the removal of the used fuel from the reactor and the subsequent treatment and disposal [1]. In the United States of America and Canada, this is regarded as waste and treated in just the same way as the waste from the ‘front-end’ of the fuel cycle, while in Europe and Japan, this waste is reprocessed. Currently, reprocessing of radioactive waste is carried out at Sellafield in the United Kingdom and La Hague in France. The recovered Uranium and Plutonium is the returned to the owners and the separated waste are subsequently disposed off by the geological disposal method.






Oluwatosin A. Oyebade's picture


Oluwatosin A. Oyebade's picture


Neil Fraser James Carr's picture

"Apart from Chernobyl, no nuclear workers or members of the
public have ever died as a result of exposure to radiation due to a commercial
nuclear reactor incident."

technology is often branded as dangerous and unstable, with the main reported
accidents involving weapons, marine power elements or medical uses. Major
accidents involving the production of energy often have an initial low death
toll which becomes more significant with time, making it very difficult to
really analyse the true cost of an exposure to such a loss of containment.

The probability of
a nuclear release through mishandling or mismanagement is very low with the
main risks to the integrity of the process coming from events that the likelihood
of is very difficult to quantify and mitigate against.

I feel that the
technology that is being applied in the process and the regulations which are
under constant world scrutiny has advanced and will continue to do so to make a
valuable and safe contribution to our energy needs world wide

Derek Porter.'s picture

                     OECD                             Non-OECD 
Energy    Accidents         Fatalities     Accidents      Fatalities
Coal             75               2259         1044           18017
Oil             165              3713           232            16505
Natural gas  90               1043            45              1000
Hydro            1                 14              10             29924
Nuclear         0                     0               1              31

Hi Neil, this is to back up your point that no members of the public have died as a result of exposure to radiation (excluding Chernobyl). The table above summarises the severe (> 5 fatalities) accidents that occurred in the energy sectors in the period 1969-2000. This mentions immediate fatalities only but fails to include the 33000 delayed fatalities from chernobyl and 100-1000 that may result from fukushima. This does significantly change the statistics although to counteract this stat, the OECD environmental directorate estimates 960,000 have died prematurely due to particles in the air related to fossil fuels in one year alone.

In my opinion, if we take into account the delayed fatalities of chernobyl and fukushima, nuclear energy, although has a very low probability of occurring can have a very severe impact where as if we exclude the deaths due to fossil fuel particles in the air we can presume oil and natural gas, although have a higher rate of probability, the impact is far less.
If the safety considerations of nuclear is breached a few more times (after fukushima) then nuclear generation will struggle to remain as a main player in the worlds energy generation.

Ref: OECD, 2010, Comparing nuclear accident risks with those from other energy sources, Nuclear development

Andrew Allan's picture

Safety in Design

One of the main findings from the incident investigation following the Fukushima Nuclear Incident was that the emergency generators used to power electronics and coolant systems in the event of primary power failure were flooded due to the tsunami and ceased working [Ref 1].

This raises an interesting discussion around hazard identification in the design of new facilities.  As part of the design of any new facility a hazard identification (HAZID) exercise should be undertaken to identify all possible hazards, the potential accident events and the ultimate consequences should that accident occur.  The findings from the HAZID form a basis for identifying risk reduction measures in order to reduce the impacts to humans and the environment to as low as is reasonably practicable.

Some questions for discussion under this thread:

-          Was the likelihood of a Tsunami or extreme weather event considered in sufficient detail during design of the facility? Perhaps it was briefly discussed and discarded “That will never happen!”.

-          Were the ultimate worst case consequences of a Tsunami event fully understood in terms of loss of emergency systems and ultimate loss of control of the plant?

-          If this event had been envisaged during design what could have been done to mitigate the consequences?

o   Elevate all essential equipment above the maximum predicted tsunami height?

o   Position the emergency generators in a diverse location where a single event could not eliminate both main and emergency power?

o   Don’t build the Nuclear plant in this location as the risk from Tsunami is too high?

As with all major industrial accidents, the duty of an Engineer is to learn from these events and ensure that when we have responsibility for design that we apply these learnings to minimise the risk to humans and the environment.

Ref 1 -

VICTOR ETIM's picture

I strongly agree with Allan’s view on the poor design plan
that resulted to the Fukushima Nuclear incident. The need for a comprehensive
risk and hazard analysis is of key importance in every front end engineering
design as well as the evaluation of all viable HAZIDs, HAZOPs and FMECA in any future process

The Nuclear sector has high risk and hazard potentials but modern
engineering design and technology have been upgraded to reduced or eliminate
the likelihood of any possible accident. The Fukushima incident was not a
technological problem since the plant process was programed to shut down in case
of  any emergency but the power supply link for the complete cycle of the shutdown
process was interrupted due to the flooded emergency generation which failed due to
poor detailed design of the plant emergency response plan.

This slag in safety mitigation and control has impacted
negatively on the Nuclear industry and has also given room for lessons to be learnt on the
need for best process safety design practices with committed compliance to
appropriate “DUTY DESIGN CODES” which is an intricate part of the HSE
regulatory act that serves as bedrock for future Nuclear plant designs and
existing plant modifications.


51126236. OGE.


Lee Soo Chyi's picture


Nuclear power is safe for humans and the environment if humans use it
wisely and control it in a correct way.

The Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant’s cooling systems were knocked out
by the earthquake and tsunami in Japan. The disaster caused a meltdown at three
of the reactors. The nuclear plant design is fine and workable until the
incident happened. Apparently, the plant design is not good enough to withstand
the power of natural disaster; system redundancy is insufficient, etc.

Lesson learn (one of the risk assessment method) from Fukushima accident, many
nuclear plants especially in Europe have been re-commissioned and
re-assessed using
criteria covering both natural and man-made hazard
, aim to see how
nuclear power stations would cope during extreme emergencies. Based on the
findings from the
risk identification program, the potential risk can be reduced to an acceptable level
through specific actions and risk reducing activities. However, it is very
costly. Risk reducing means and actions should be based on subjective
cost-benefit assessment. “Hundreds of
problems have been found at European nuclear plants that would cost 25bn Euros
to fix”, says a leaked draft report. The report says nearly all the EU’s
nuclear plants need improving. Again, we need evaluate whether it is worth to
fix or not.

The other risks such as ageing technology, terrorist attacks or human
error are required to be taken into consideration.  

Regulatory bodies play vital role in controlling the standard of the
design and safety. They need to ensure that operators address any site specific
issues using the existing regulatory regime, which requires operators to take
all reasonably practicable (ALARP) steps to reduce risk and seek continuous
improvement to safety.

A good nuclear plant facility may be equipped by high and advance
technology equipment, high safety factor used in the design. However, it will
be controlled by HUMAN eventually. Hence, qualification and experience of
personnel is very important. 



Soo Chyi, Lee

Henry Tan's picture

A good piece of work covering the following safety concepts in just one post:
(1) Balance between risk and cost
(3) Safety factor
(4) Human factors
(5) Design against both natural and man-made attack

Lee Soo Chyi's picture

Nuclear power is
not currently a global technology (only used in developed countries like Japan,
USA, France, Russia, etc). It provides high efficiency and zero emission power.

Fukushima accident
has highlighted one of the most important issues concerning nuclear power- that
of safety and risk. As a result of Fukushima, most operators believe that the
engineering and financial cost associated with nuclear power will increase further.
For example, the structure design and the system design must be able to protect
the plant from broader environmental threats such as flooding, storm, etc. More
detail FMECA study will also affect the design, layout and ultimately the cost
of future nuclear plants.


Personally, I
welcome technological change, but it must take into account the risk of
failure, and most importantly, the consequences of any failure. Nuclear power
is not a problem. WE (humans) are!   


Soo Chyi, Lee

Kingsley ENEM's picture

Nuclear power poses a key hazard to the environment and to humankind. Most times, it has proven to be safe and effective, but on some occasions its results have been disastrous. The creation of nuclear power goes along with the production of radioactivity. Like the pollution produced when fossil fuels are burned, radioactivity can be very hazardous to living creatures. This is mainly true in the case of nuclear disasters, which have occurred occasionally throughout recent history.


Undoubtedly, the greatest nuclear power disaster in history happened in 1986 in Chernobyl in the Ukraine. The blast released a mist of radioactivity that spread all over Europe and into Scandinavia. Colossal statistics of animal were slaughtered and food stuff had to be destroyed because it had been polluted by radioactive substance. Over-all, 21,000 West Europeans are expected to be affected with cancer from the exposure to radioactivity. Also 100,000 Soviets were probably affected. [1]


The environmental impact of nuclear power is huge, especially in terms of flora and fauna. Preferably, nuclear plant is usually situated near a natural water body and land mass. Usually, it is accompanied by deforestation which disturbs the natural habitat and slowly upsets the ecological balance of the region. Due to heat rejection from the plant into the water bodies, there have been significant drops in the populations of several species of water creatures in certain regions. Another major effect is the release of Sulphur dioxide in the air which form acid rain and then pollute water bodies, reduction of productivity of the soil and human health. [2] There is also a huge problem of nuclear waste which can cause health issues. The US facilities in Hanford released 422,000 gallons of radioactive substance from 1945 – 1973. Also, British nuclear plant dumped 180 kilograms of plutonium into the Irish Sea.


Another major effect of nuclear power plant is the emission of different forms and intensities of gaseous substance. During the testing and running of the plant, greenhouse gases are released into the atmosphere. These gases mostly consist of carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, nitrous oxides and sulphur dioxides. Apart from greenhouse gases, exhaust gases from buildings containing radioactive processes is radioactive in nature. Furthermore, boiling water reactors in plant, the air ejector exhaust is radioactive as well. Radioactive exhaust from nuclear power plant causes skin disease of several kinds. [3]


In 1957, the core of a nuclear reactor at Windscale England caught fire. In a little while, radioactivity spread all over Britain. There was no reliable statistic for compilation on how many people died from radioactivity poisoning. In that same year, a blast occurred in the Soviet Union at Kyshytym. The neighbouring area was heavily polluted and 270,000 people had to be evacuated. As many as 10,000 persons lost their lives. In Pennsylvania, USA, a reactor at Three Mile Island partially melted down at its core in 1979. The amount of radioactive substance release was not huge and a great disaster was averted. However, it cost over US $1 billion to repair the plant.

 References [1]   

 [2]   A. Bond et al., "Environmental Impact Assessment and the Decommissioning of Nuclear Power Plants - a Review and Suggestion for a Best Practicable Approach," Environmental Impact Assessment Review 23, 197 (2003).   

  [3] M. Damian, "Nuclear Power: The Ambiguous Lessons of History," Energy Policy 20, 596 (1992).

  Kingsley ENEM


Samira Bamdad's picture

The safety of the nuclear industry is often thought questionable and its future debated. Some people go a long way in expressing their fear, anger, and opposition; chain themselves to the rail road, demonstrate outside nuclear plants and even vote for anti-nuclear politicians.
Perhaps the root of the fear is in the origins of nuclear energy and its use as a weapon during WWII, and perhaps even more importantly during the cold war. This is although the nuclear industry has come a long way since the first nuclear device test in Los Alamos. Its safety record is also quite respectable especially when compared to some other industries.
The level of media coverage and public attention/opposition to a new build nuclear plants is un-proportionately higher than anything else, e.g. a chemical plant that produces toxic and dangerous products. Let us not forget the environmental damages caused by the chemical plants, pulp and paper, oil refineries, etc. is quite significant and has long lasting effects on the planet. Everyone remembers Chernobyl, but seems to forget Bhopal disaster.

FELIXMAIYO's picture

Though most of us will agree that
nuclear energy is the safest and cleanest form of energy, I tend to disagree
with this. Nuclear energy is has had tremendous effect on people and also on
environment. I will site the case of Chernobyl Disaster where a large release of
radioactive substances into the atmosphere. “ According to a United Nations (UNSCEAR)
report published in 2008, the Chernobyl accident caused 0.065 million man-Sieverts
(Sv) of radiation exposure to recovery workers and evacuees, 0.18 million
man-Sv to the populace of the Ukraine, Belarus, and Russia, and a dose to most of the more distant European
countries amounting to 0.13 million man-Sv  .” Also the was a lot of exposure of the radioactive
substances to the victims and the evacuees which has been estimated to be
between 3 and 150 mSv this is based on the ground deposition of caesium-137
of which it translates to be between 1 in 6700 and 1 in 130 chance of
developing a fatal cancer from this radiation. [1] I have looked at one
scenario only what about the other nuclear energy accident??

It has also been noted with concern
that nuclear reactors have become a key target during military conflicts that
is through aerial attacks and also ground attacks. Some of the attacks the have
taken place are: [2]

  • Between 18 December 1977 and 13 June 1979 ETA carried out several attacks on
    Lemoniz Nuclear Power Plant in Spain while it was still under
  • In September 1980, Iran bombed the Al Tuwaitha nuclear complex in Iraq, in Operation Scorch Sword.
  • In June 1981, an Israeli air strike completely destroyed Iraq’s Osirak
    nuclear research facility.
  • On 8
    January 1982, Umkhonto we Sizwe attacked Koeberg nuclear power plant in
    South Africa while it was still under construction.
  • Between 1984 and 1987, Iraq bombed Iran’s Bushehr nuclear plant six times.
  • In Iraq in 1991, The U.S. bombed three nuclear reactors and an enrichment
    pilot facility.
  • In 1991, Iraq launched Scud missiles at Israel’s Dimona nuclear power plant.
  • In September 2003, Israel bombed a Syrian reactor under construction.





adavis's picture

If vulnerability to enemy attack determines whether a technology is safe, then there are numerous examples of unsafe technology throughout the world, skyscrapers, chemical processing plants, sports stadiums, etc.  Nuclear power obviously has the potential to release an enormous amount of destructive energy.  However as demonstrated by the attack on the World Trade Center, aircraft and skyscrapers have a similar potential.

Countries must take the time to access the risk of enemy attack and take measures to mitigate the risk.  However, they must do this for a much larger base of technology than just nuclear energy.  Humanity can't simply discard useful technology because some chose to use it in destructive ways.

If managed properly, Nuclear power has the potential to provide safe energy for many years to come.

FELIXMAIYO's picture

I would like to respond to adavis that nuclear reactors have been a target for wars for a long time. I will quote some examples where some countries have ended up in attacking one another due to construction of nuclear reactors: Israel attacked Syrian nuclear reactor named Al Kibar [1]. The USA has been worried about Syria coming up with nuclear reactor; USA during the invasion of Iraq attacked several nuclear reactors.[2]  Nuclear reactors can also be a target for terrorists because some of the nuclear reactors are situated in populated areas and an attack can lead to the meltdown of the core and a large release of radioactive wastes. The consequences you are familiar too. WE know that we can never have absolute safety …but nuclear reactors can be disastrous and they will have a long effect on human life. Safety associated with all those you have been mentioned can be controlled if they happen but accidents related to nuclear are a big challenge.



Mark Haley's picture

We have seen the data that shows us statistically that nuclear power has the lowest casualty figures in both work force and civilian population. 

However, it is still perceived by many as one of the more dangerous energy sources, if not the most dangerous, despite this data.

This clearly highlights the issues between measured risk and perceived risk.  The perceived risk from the public is down to a number of factors. 
- One of the major factors is the lack of public understanding of what is involved in nuclear power generation and the safety measures that are in place to protect them.

- Another reason is that when an incident in the nuclear industry occurs, the press tend to latch onto it and report it without all the facts to get a sensational headline.

- Additionally, if a nuclear power station fails catastrophically (Chernobyl), the repercussions can be felt on a global scale due to radioactive material travelling through the atmosphere.

As with all sources of energy there are risks associated with it.  The nuclear industry is still in its infancy and errors have been and I am sure will still be made.  However, with the change in safety culture since the 60’s when some of the first nuclear reactors were built (Generation I) to today with the Generation III/III+ reactors the risks of a large release of radiation have reduced by a factor of 1600 (

Equally a lot of the original Generation I plants have been upgraded over the years with improvement in safety.  The key to nuclear safety has always been defence in depth, so that if one system fails there is always something there to back it up until it can be fixed. 

The key here is to continue safety improvements and upgrade/replace the older reactors to ensure another Chernobyl/Fukushima does not occur.

Mark Haley




Unfortunately, economic feasibility may
takes prior to safety sometimes in some cases. Nuclear power plants constructed
in 70s have low specification in safety design. Woleseong nuclear power plant
unit 1 in South Korea had been investigated for extending operation after design
life. Operator performed upgrade construction but had done for only limited
part. For example, the unit still has only 1 core cooling device without
redundancy. Cooling device is core for decreasing excessive heat in the
emergency. Extra cooling device require changing whole system, so it is
realistically impossible. Even though this, operator still carry forward their
plan and this will be concluded soon.


In the situation, can regulator order decommissioning?
If regulators / operators can less focus on safety, operator can save
facilities and benefit in finance i.e. maintaining cash flow and no decommissioning
cost. But who will take a risk if incident once happened? Both are really hard
to answer but any decision should be based on precise technical evaluation. I
believe there will be several similar cases in the world because many plants get
to meet their design life and their specification may be different with nowdays.
Furthermore, operators may have to consider increased safety factor like from
Fukushima case going with extra cost.

It may looks like complex issue. I believe
initiation should be technical things, make a standard, scrutinize every site
and perform a supplement plan. Of course, when the plan is established, economic
feasibility should be considered.







WilliamBradford's picture

Currently, with our level of knowledge and subsequent technology, nuclear power is fission based, dependant on the splitting of Uranium 235, delivering huge amounts of power and producing around 16,000 times more electricity than coal, weight for weight [1].  Unfortunately, being what is essentially a slow, controlled nuclear bomb, nuclear power carries inherent risk, one of these being the catastrophic meltdown. Currently (as of 2nd July 2012), there are approximately 435 nuclear power plants in operation and 62 currently being constructed around the world [2], this vast number of plants along with the ability of most of the general public to only name 3 major disasters (Chernobyl, Three Mile Island, and the recent Fukushima) shows that nuclear power can be considered safe to a point. Although, as with practically all systems, improvements can always be made to help ensure history doesn’t repeat itself. However, if and when an accident does occur, there are disastrous effects to both humans and the environment.


William Bradford,

MSc Renewable Energy 



Angelos Hadjiantoni's picture

Good evening,

Even though nuclear power is a low carbon source or energy it can be safe as long as people
take the right measures to prevent accidents or terrorists actions.

A new report states some very worrying facts about nuclear power stations in Europe
which can be quite upsetting.

In Europe 143 nuclear plants are in need of maintenance and improvement while 111 of
those reactors are in a 30km range of people.


Moreover some members, which are not named, have nuclear stations that do not comply
with the stress measures regulation.

France, which deeply relies on nuclear, has 58 reactors with specifying failings. If
you take in mind that France has in total 58 reactors that counts as a 100% of
problematic reactors.

In the UK a lot of stations do not offer an alternative emergency room in case the main is
penetrated by high radiation levels.

What worries me most is that the Department of Energy in the UK states that there is
no evidence about unsafe nuclear stations in UK.

The total cost to repair these issues is estimated to 25 billion Euros and this makes me
wonder: will the countries move on with the repairs or they will just use the
economic crisis as an excuse?

Taking all those facts in mind I think that with its current state in EU at least, nuclear
power it is not safe enough. It needs a huge investment to make it safe again
and I hope that governments will take actions and not wait for anything else to


Angelos Hadjiantonis
Course: MSc Renewable Energy

victor.adukwu's picture

Is nuclear power safe for humans and the environment?

Commercial nuclear power plants in the United States have produced electricity for over half a century, and there have been no radiation-related deaths linked to their operation. Studies by numerous health entities, including the National Cancer Institute and the United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation, show that US nuclear power plants effectively protect the public's health and safety.
 The US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) regulates the commercial and institutional uses of nuclear energy, including nuclear power plants. These plants are designed, licensed, constructed, and operated to rigorous requirements established by the NRC. Additionally, the NRC has a continuing inspection and oversight process with on-site resident inspectors and periodic inspection teams to ensure compliance with regulations and associated programs
In practice, radiation protection is based on the understanding that small increases over natural levels of exposure are not likely to be harmful but should be kept to a minimum. To put this into practice the International Commission for Radiological Protection (ICRP) has established recommended standards of protection (both for members of the public and radiation workers) based on three basic principles:
•             No practice involving exposure to radiation should be adopted unless it produces a net benefit to those exposed or to society generally.

•             Radiation doses and risks should be kept as low as reasonably achievable (ALARA), economic and social factors being taken into account.

•             The exposure of individuals should be subject to dose or risk limits above which the radiation risk would be deemed unacceptable.

These principles apply to the potential for accidental exposures as well as predictable normal exposures.

According to (EG50S1 & EG501D 2012-13), Fundamental Safety Engineering and Risk Management Concept, nuclear power has the lowest Deaths per Terawatt Hour.

With the level of safety recorded in the United of America, the recommended practice by ICRP and the information from EG50S1 & EG501D, I would say it is safe to use nuclear power.



2.            EG50S1 & EG501D 2012-13 - Fundamental Safety Engineering and Risk Management

Oluwasegun Onasanya's picture

Safety is taken very seriously by those working in nuclear power plants. The main safety concern is the emission of uncontrolled radiation into the environment which could cause harm to humans both at the reactor site and off-site.

The importance of both a vigilant safety culture and a pro-active regulatory oversight cannot be over-emphasized, as these will ensure not just the safety of the workers in the power plant, but also the people outside and the environment at large.

By regulation, the design of the nuclear reactor must include provisions for human (operator) error and equipment failure. Nuclear Plants in the western world use a "Defense in Depth" concept which is a system with multiple safety components, each with back-up and design to accommodate human error. The components include:

1. Control of radioactivity.

2. Maintenace of core cooling.

3. Maintenace of barriers that prevents the release of radiation.

Safety is also important for the workers of nuclear power plants. Radiation doses are controlled via the following procedures,

1. The handling of equipment via remote in the core of the reactor.

2. Physical shielding.

3. Limit on the time a worker spends in areas with significant radiation levels.

4. Monitoring of the individual doses and of the work environment.


Thomas James Smith's picture

I've yet to spend enough time on this to make a post on one of the topics given by Dr Tan.  But I've found it interesting that no one has focused on the decommissioning, or waste management associated with the nuclear power industry.  Operationally nuclear power probably does have the answer to the worlds power requirements, but until we have developed safe environmentally friendly ways of dealing with decommissioning and waste management we are I'm afraid a long way from this being an acceptable solution to our power requirements.

Kii Cajetan Barisi's picture

Could thorium make nuclear power safe?Wink
The world can have cheap nuclear power without Japan-level risks by swapping thorium for uranium, some scientists claim. Is that too good to be true?

many scientists say we can save time and increase safety by replacing uranium-based reactors (like the Vogtle nuclear power plant in Georgia) with ones focused on thorium.

Japan's escalating disaster at its Fukushima reactors is putting a negative look on the nuclear power industry, just as nuclear energy was starting to bask in a post-Chernobyl glow. But instead of giving up on nuclear power, say an "almost cult-like" group of nuclear scientists, we should just switch from uranium-based reactors to ones fueled by cheaper, safer thorium. What is this miracle metal - and could it really bring us safe nuclear power?

meet Mr. thorium:Cool

Thorium is silvery metal (symbol: Th; atomic number: 90) close to uranium on the periodic table of elements, with just two fewer protons. It was discovered in 1828, and is named after the Norse god of thunder. As an added bonus, it's "almost as common as dirt," says Antonia Zerbisias in The Toronto Star.

why the excitement?Sealed
Thorium-fueled reactors are supposed to be much safer than uranium-powered ones, use far less material (1 metric ton of thorium gets as much bang as 200 metric tons of uranium, or 3.5 million metric tons of coal), produce waste that is toxic for a shorter period of time (300 years vs. uranium's tens of thousands of years), and is hard to weaponize. In fact, thorium can even feed off of toxic plutonium waste to produce energy. And because the biggest cost in nuclear power is safety, and thorium reactors can't melt down, argues Michael Anissimov in Accelerating Future, they will eventually be much cheaper, too

why use uranium in place of ''safe ThoriumEmbarassed
To make a "long story very short and simple," says The Star's Antonia Zerbisias, weapons and nuclear subs. U.S. researchers were developing both uranium-based and thorium-based reactors in the Cold War 1950s, but thorium doesn't create weapons-grade plutonium as a byproduct. Plus, nuclear submarines could be designed more easily and quickly around uranium-based light-water reactors.

it can't be 100% safet is it?Foot in mouth
Indeed. First, it will take a lot of money to develop a new generation of thorium-fueled reactors - America's has been dormant for half a century. China is taking the lead in picking up the thread, building on plans developed and abandoned in Europe. And part of the reason Europe dropped the research, according to critics, is pressure from France's uranium-based nuclear power industry. Others just think the whole idea is being oversold. If "an endless, too-cheap-to-meter source of clean, benign, what-could-possibly-go-wrong energy" sounds too good to be true, says nuclear analyst Norm Rubin, it's because it is.

Toronto Star, Telegraph, EconProph, Accelerating Future

Kwadwo Boateng Aniagyei's picture

Nuclear safety is now a global issue, since an accident will not only affect the country in which the event occurred but other neighboring countries as well. Though many people will argue that the initial intent of nuclear power was for fighting wars, technological advances have proved that nuclear power can be channeled into other useful purposes, which will further aid in combating issues of energy security and climate change.

After the fatal accidents at Three Mile Island (1979) and Chernobyl (1986), the development of nuclear energy has been very slow and gradual. However, nuclear power plants have improved and become safer over the years. Nuclear power plants have even migrated from Generation I to Generation III designs. Latent fatalities or deaths are one of the major dangers of nuclear power (emissions) exposure. The assessment of the Chernobyl accident indicated numbers of latent (delayed) fatalities up to 33000 over the next 70 years. Also, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Environment Directorate estimated that 960000 pre-mature deaths resulted from levels of particulates in the air in the year 2000; of which energy sources accounted for about 30%.

Nevertheless, the progression and development of nuclear reactors to Generation III plants have reduced the consequences of any severe damage, as any radioactive exposure is contained within the reactor containment building. The practice of a consistent and strong safety culture can ensure the integrity of the safety of the nuclear industry. Safety standards have been enacted and implemented to a wider extent in the industry. Intelligent planning and proper designs can also go a long way to improve the safety and reliability of the nuclear industry. These and many other practices have made the industry successful in preventing accidents as no other notable or significant accident have been reported other than Three Mile Island, Chernobyl and Fukushima.


Kwadwo Boateng Aniagyei                                                                                                                                                                 MSc. Oil and Gas Engineering

Etienne Gunter's picture

One of the findings by the committee (ICANPS) investigating the disaster at Fukushima was, that “TEPCO were reluctant to invest time, effort and money in protecting against a natural disaster considered unlikely [1]”

The tsunami was the trigger in what was to be a sequence of disasters ending in a catastrophe.

What this illustrates is that their risk analyses were inadequate and not the technology to deal with such a disaster.

Risk = Probability x Consequences

We all know that the consequences of a nuclear disaster are enormous and one wonders if TEPCO “tweaked” the probability of such an incident, in order to classify it as ALARP; thereby absolving the responsibility (financial) to put measures in place to deal with such an incident.

A seismological bulletin [2] states that the probability of a violent tsunami along the Pacific coast in central Japan can be as high as 41%. Other articles [3] state lower probabilities, but it was still considered risky when taking into account the consequences.

The consequences of Fukushima are not a result of unsafe technology but rather irresponsibility.




xenios.ze's picture

The international atomic energy
agency has drawn up conventions about nuclear safety which are important for
the communication of the states that develop nuclear energy. Those actions are
the followings: The Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material,
the Convention on Early Notification of a Nuclear Accident, the Convention on
Assistance in the Case of a Nuclear Accident or Radiological Emergency and the
Convention on Nuclear Safety.

The Convention of Nuclear Safety
aims to legally commit participating States operating nuclear power plants to
maintain a high level of safety by setting international benchmarks to which
States would subscribe.

The Convention on Early Notification
of a Nuclear Accident aims to strengthen international co-operation in order to
provide relevant information about nuclear accidents as early as necessary in
order that transboundary radiological consequences can be minimized.

This Convention requires that States Parties cooperate between
themselves and with the IAEA to facilitate prompt assistance in the event of a
nuclear accident or radiological emergency to minimize its consequences and to
protect life, property and the environment from the effects of radioactive

With those conventions the safety of the nuclear power
stations and thus the safety of the surrounding environments have increased but
yet as we have seen recently in the Fukushima disaster, all those measurements are
simply not enough. The conventions took place in the 90s and various agreements
about the nuclear safety have been made in order to improve sitting, design,
construction, operation, the availability of adequate financial and human
resources, the assessment and verification of safety, quality assurance and
emergency preparedness. Those agreements though, do not lead to
sanctions for the countries that do not fulfill them. That is why the nuclear
power is not safe, because of the unpredicted actions of the nature and because
of the lack of control that the international atomic energy agency (IAEA) has
on the countries that do not fulfill their obligations.



Xenios Zenieris

Oil and Gas Engineering 

xenios.ze's picture

Are the current Nuclear waste storage methods safe?

Nuclear waste is set to be stored in dry cask storage after
is being stored in Spent Fuel Pools. Is this way of storage safe? Can we say
that there is no possibility that radioactive material will leak to the environment
and affect the public?  Let us see first
what exactly are these spent fuel pools and dry casks and how are designed.

The spent fuel pools are tanks that are filled with water
and can store the nuclear rods that are no longer needed. The rods remain there
for at least 5 years and then they are placed in the dry casks.

The casks are steel cylinders. The steel cylinder provides
containment of the spent fuel. Each cylinder is surrounded by additional steel,
concrete, or other material to provide radiation shielding to workers and
members of the public.

The statistics indicate that this way of storage is safe and
can be used to storage the nuclear waste but the dry casks are vulnerable to man-made
attacks, like missiles, bobs or aircraft attack because they are store outdoors
on concrete pads. So, new regulations must take place in order to place
the dry casks in a safer environment, like below the surface under huge
security protection.

References :

Xenios Zenieris

MSc Oil and Gas Engineering

Savitha Haneef's picture

There is no perfect energy source. Each & everyone has its own adavantages and compromises.

Nuclear power is considered a prominent alternative.This is because the benefits outweighs the risk since it is more environmentally beneficial solution as it emits lesser greenhouse gases during electricity generation than coal or other traditional power plants.The risk of warming the planet outweighs the risk associated with nuclear energy.Also it is to be noted that nuclear energy has less footprint and waste and causes less air pollution than the traditional powerplants. 

Nuclear energy is safe if we use it wise. Since this is the only solution to meet our energy requirements.It could be made more safer, If it is designed to withstand any man-made or natural disaster in the future. Also to be considered is the waste, if it is recycled properly, the risk associated with it also lessens.






Craig Donaldson's picture

"The risk of warming the planet outweighs the risk associated with nuclear energy". Is this your own opinion or something you have found through research since I think a lot of people would disagree with this? If it is your opinion could you expand on it?

It is clear to see what effect Fukushima has had on the perceptions of Nuclear Energy around the world, with Germany and Japan shutting down many of its reactors and moving back towards coal fired power plants. This to me looks like some countries think that the risks associated with nuclear energy do in fact outweigh the necessity to lower the carbon dioxide emissions.

Furthermore, I don't think it is possible for us to design plants to withstand all foreseeable man-made and natural disasters because of cost and resource limitations. Fukushimas' tsunami defences were built for a 1 in a 100 year event and some people said why wasn't it built bigger? It would not be feasible to build defences for the largest of possible disasters. Other industries use ALARP as sensible reasoning so why is the nuclear industry expected to provide facilities which are in essence completely safe or they are not allowed?

Brenda Amanda's picture

A lot of time and resources are invested to ensure that
nuclear power plants are as safe as reasonably practicable. New technology is
always being invented to ensure that no radioactive leakages occur; and if they
do, then immediate actions are taken to keep the damage to a minimum.

My contribution to this discussion is a question: ‘Are adequate safety measures put in place
to protect the uranium miners in the uranium rich countries like India,
Kazakhstan, Ukraine, Niger, South Africa, Uzbekistan etc  from effects of radiation to the population and
the environment?’

Winona La Duke [1], gives examples of the damage done to the
local population in Paguate and other villages in India due to laxity in the
laws and regulations regarding the miners’ health.

The UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples
states: “Indigenous     peoples have the right
to the lands, territories and resources which they have traditionally owned,
occupied or otherwise used or acquired. ‘This is clearly being violated in
Niger where the Touareg are threatened with removal; in   northern Australia where the government is seizing
Aboriginal lands to exploit uranium    resources;
and on American Indian lands threatened with continued uranium mining.’[2]

While emphasis needs to be put on the safety measures in
nuclear reactor plants, the uranium miners across the globe; especially those
from third world countries, need international laws and safety measures to
protect them.


[1] L. Nader ( 2010), The Energy Reader, John Wiley &
Sons Ltd.


Craig Donaldson's picture

This is an interesting point as often no thought is given to the first step in the production of nuclear power. The particular dangers and therefore the counter-measures in place vary between the different extraction methods but the two main dangers are obviously radiation and radon gas inhalation.

Radon-222 is one of uranium's progeny and is often emitted from uranium ore. This is not much of a problem in open pit mining however in underground mining if adequate ventilation is not provided then the miners are likely to inhale quantities of the gas which are well above the safe limit. Inhalation of this gas has a strong tendency to cause lung cancer.

In the UK, perceptions have changed from during the Industrial revolution to nowadays where deaths at work are to be very strongly avoided. However, in other developing countries which have yet to see the legislative process implemented like it has been here continue to exploit workers especially in the mining industry by paying them very little; providing poor living conditions and offering few safety measures. While big international companies are keen to maintain a positive image and therefore implement safety regimes, smaller to medium sized businesses are usually driven by profit and will forego safety in order to maximise this.

It is up to us to ensure that the lessons learned in other parts of the world are implemented everywhere and enforced, however the cost involved in this often puts governments off and it is left unchecked.

I would like to elaborate on nuclear power risks by discussing the factors as follow: effects of radiation on health,nuclear power plant accidents,nuclear waste.

First and foremost, it is clear that nuclear power produces materials which emmit radiation called "radioactive". The radiation has subatomic particle and can penetrate into the body and damage biological cells and cause cancer.

On the other hand, although alot of safety measures are taken nowadays toprevent reactor accidents but the probability of accidents is not slim to none. Take Soviet Chernobyl for example,  it was built on a much less design concept. What I would like to stress is that if something go wrong, the consequences can be irrecoverable. For instance, an earthquake is a risky hazard for reactors just like in Japan.

Last but not least, One of the main concerns is how to isolate the nu

clear power waste which  emmits dangerous radiations. The average life time of a rock in environment is on billion years. if the waste behaves like other rocks, waste isolation for the big volume of waste with such lifetime would not be easy.

all in all,by taking saftey measures into consideration and also foreseeing future accidents that may happen, we can mitigate the risks associated with nuclear power.


haroon latif's picture

I would like to expand on Nina’s point about the problems of nuclear waste. At the moment most nuclear reactors have a life span of 30 years. After this point the expired nuclear material (waste) must be dealt with to avoid environmental/health and economic problems.

Some countries such as the US and Sweden are simply enclosing the waste within a lead or cement/steel casing and burying the material underground, as they await for the appropriate technology to develop and come available to safely make the waste material redundant. However, there have been reported cases where nuclear waste has leaked from these containers and contaminated the local area. This is of great concern as nuclear waste can remain radioactive for up to a 1000 years.  

adavis's picture

I agree that Nuclear Waste is a major concern within our current system.  At the moment, only a small fraction, 3-5%, of the fuel rods are "fissioned" before they are taken out of service and locked away. Fortunately, even though Nuclear power is not a popular option, research continues.  There are some among us who view the "waste" as a potential energy source which will further reduce the amount of waste Ref.[1].  Other organizations are investigating significantly increasing the rod utilization and believe that the consumption can be increased by several orders of magnitude in the near future.  If researchers are given sufficient time and funds, the problem of nuclear waste may be overcome in the near future. 



Sineenat Kruennumjai's picture

Is nuclear power safe for humans and the

No, although it generates a large quantity of energy, it
also has several risks. The main issue is the radioactive waste from nuclear
processes. Even if the waste from nuclear processes is less than the waste from
fossil fuel plant, it is create more radioactive.  This radioactive have to be stored in the
safe place until its living does not have the dangerous radiation. The storage
of radioactive waste is not an easy problem to solve because no one wants the
nuclear waste stored in their neighbourhood. Moreover, this solution is not a
long term solution; it is just a short term solution.   The second problem is the disposed water
from cooling processes can rise the average temperature of the natural water resource.   The issue can bring about the serious effect
on fish and organisms living in the natural water resource.


Deinyefa S. Ebikeme's picture

The question asked above was, "Is nuclear power safe for humans and the environment?". The obvious answer is No, going by the risk assessment matrix (RAM) chart where the severity to People can be rated as 5 due to its radiations when exposed to human and its propensity to be hijacked by terrorists, unnatural disasters and other deleterious effects, Asset 5 (capital intensive), Environment 5 (released to the atmosphere takes at least 50years to cure and other unseen events like natural disasters, issue with waste disposal (Fukushima and Chernobyl come to mind) and Reputation 5 (human race at stake) which all show a very high high risk involvement to Man and his habitat, moreso, that Nuclear energy is largely invented as a weapon of mass destruction when in the possession of hostile hosts.

But its all important use as providing 13.5% of the world's electricity by generating a continuous, reliable base-load power and its increasing efficiency can not be overlooked when we work towards meeting the rising energy demand by humans. Also nuclear power plant can be said to have played signicant role in this feat despite having severe setbacks which could be migitated with recent technological advancements (Generation IV Nuclear Energy Systems and Nuclear fusion) within the available lifespan of the known recoverable resources of Uranium (not more than 70years).    



Deinyefa Stephen Ebikeme IBIYF

There are many different opinions related to nuclear energy and most of them are separated into two main directions. The first one concentrates scientists considering this energy source as the safest and the most reliable to produce significant amounts of energy. The second group of scientists recognizes the importance of this energy supply but mainly consider this way of producing electricity dangerous due to fatal events occurred in the past.

Despite all these statements, there are some real numbers which should be mentioned. Nowadays there are 433 proven operating plants, 65 plants under construction, 160 plants are in the process of planning and finally there are 323 plants proposed. Also, according to the same research all these plants are considered to be shut down by 2050. Thus, the picture of the future coming seems to be as follow: During the next ten or even more years there will be approximately 981 operating plants, the half of which will have the time limitation of safe processing expired. Coming closer to 2050 there will be a trend of global decommissioning of this energy producing method.

My concern is actually related to the risks associated with the processes of shutting down so many plants “simultaneously” by the middle of 21st century. Actually there are approximately 80 plants that will shut down in the next decade. Certainly, the most dangerous parts of operating such heavy industry plants safely are the processes of activating and deactivating them. This massive activity should be performed according to the most sufficient researches which should also contain information recorded from some major nuclear disasters of the past in order to avoid risks to the humanity and the environment. 

Numeric information provided during the lecture of the course: Energy Technologies, Current Issues and Future Directions professor Paul Mitchell.

There are several very important steps in the direction of safe decommissioning of nuclear plants as this activity could cause fatal incidents to the human health and the environment. Generally, the first step is related to the process of chain reaction which has to be ceased. This means that neutrons have to be absorbed by special neutrons absorbing control rods. These rods are inserted between the fuel rods in order to achieve the neutron absorption. There will be a demand of keeping the reactor cool, process which may last for some years. This is due to the proceeding nuclear reactions in a lower level for a long time.

Finally, when the nuclear reactions are considered to have reached the end of their lives decommission can take place. The first activity is associated with removing of all radioactive spent fuel and general clean up of an entire facility which some time will involve cleaning of soil and groundwater. The next step involves demolition of buildings and every structure which was located near the reactor core and during operation of plant may have become radioactive. Such are materials like steel, concrete and packaging which should be transported safely to the final place where they are going to be stored. Last thing but not less important is that there is a legal processes, lasting from the begging of decommissioning procedure until the end of it.

In conclusion, I should mention that all these steps are very complex and the successful performance depends on careful management of risks related to the process.

References: Closing and Decommissioning Nuclear Power Reactors. Authors: Jon Samseth (chair), Anthony Banford, Borislava Batandjieva-Metcalf, Marie Claire Cantone, Peter Lietava, Hooman Peimani and Andrew Szilagyi. Science writer: Fred Pearce. (



Discussion Topic 2: Is nuclear power safe for humans and the

Nuclear Energy/power is produced in nuclear
reactors by radioactivity in a process known as nuclear fission where by a
large fissile nuclide splits into lighter nuclei resulting in the production of
kinetic energy, gamma radiations and neutrons. The heat produced is then used
to run a steam generator to generate power.

Nuclear power may referred as a clean source of
energy to some extent  because it does
not produce greenhouse gas emissions such as carbon dioxide to the atmosphere
but it does also have its effects to both humans and the environment. First and
foremost, the radiations emitted during nuclear power generation if inhaled or
if they penetrate a human body can cause long term effects such as damaging the
body cells/tissues, DNA which damages may lead to cancer, other diseases and
mutations (2) however this can be mitigated by ensuring that workers have
proper protective gear that are resistant to radiations. Another challenge
affecting nuclear power stations is radioactive waste such as old/used fuel
rods from reactors which is a source of radiation hazard (1). The current
practice is to burry these wastes  or
store them in large water cooled pools or dry storage casks however this is not
a sustainable solution. It poses environmental concerns/pollution.

There is need to consider recycling/reusing of
nuclear waste to overcome their impacts on the environment. According to
Galen(2),fuel reprocessing would recover Uranium which would again be used as
fuel and the process can be categorised into three steps namely  (a) recovery of unused fuel which include
heavy metals, (b) waste minimization, and (c) full use of uranium/thorium as

There is also a risk of radioactive leakages or explosion/rupture
of the nuclear reactors in case of a meltdown resulting into radioactive
vapours escaping to the atmosphere and causing radiation poisoning of the earth
just like it was for the case of 
Chernobyl nuclear power plant on April 26, 1986. To achieve optimum
safety in nuclear power; high quality designs and constructions, comprehensive
monitoring & regular testing of the reactors to detect equipment or
operator failure, physical barriers between the reactor core & the environment
and safety systems should be in place.


John Bosco Aliganyira

Msc.Oil and Gas Engineering.


1. Nuclear energy by Chris Oxlade , 2012

2. Sustainable nuclear power  by Galen
J Suppes; Truman S. Storvick, c2007

3. The future of nuclear power by  J.
N. Lillington , ScienceDirect, 2004

Menelaos Michelakis's picture

(Topic : Considerations about nuclear safety, the human nature)

I make this post about safety in nuclear energy, rather late, because i was affected by a philoshophy book i am reading. Noone yet has posted something similar, although the thoughts are simple and logic.

A nuclear accident, may not happen because of human error or natural disaster, or one of the causes mentioned on the above posts. A nuclear disaster could occur in purpose, i shall mention a few scenarios :

1. A country or organisation wishes to harm another country or organisation. In such a case a nuclear plant can be sabotaged, on purpose, and this can of course lead to a disaster.

2. The proliferation of nuclear technology (plants and weapons), means that these technologies could fall into the wrong hands, rogue-stetes for example, something that could lead to mass disasters, even to a nuclear war. To understand better, what i write about consider what happens now in IRAN, where the americans try to interfere.

3. Nuclear power plants are targets by themselves, for the countries that have them. Why sould a terrorist try to control a train, or an aeroplane, and not try to destroy/sabotage a nuclear plant ? Of course it is much harder, but consider the destruction of the Twin Towers in USA. How difficult would it be to target a nuclear plant ? Such an act would inflict much greater damage to the enemy, than a human bomb or anything similar. Also, the area around the installation will remain contaminated by radiation for many years after the accident. So nuclear installations must be guarded carefully by the army. They are terrorist targets by themselves.

4. In case of war, (like the second world war), the entire planet could be destroyed because not only of nuclear weapons, but also because of nuclear installations, that are now used for energy production. Nuclear installations will be the first targets in case of a large-scale war, between strong nations. When the soviet union was strong, around 1960's they declared in public that have enough nuclear weapons to destroy the entire world 50 times !

To conclude, nuclear technology is dangerous because of human nature (which is aggressive by nature) - think of the atrocities in previous wars - not because of the technology which is already extremely advanced, or because of human error, which can be reduced significantly, as i have already explained in previous post about nuclear energy (how to reduce human error), in the main discussion window.

haroon latif's picture

Menelaos, I would like to add to your comment. I do not think Nuclear energy can be classified as
‘dangerous’ simply because of human nature. A properly functioning nuclear
power plant can provide clean, emission-free electricity. Nuclear energy is the
future of power production, as fossil fuelled power stations have finite
resources available and renewable energy is not ready to take over as the main
energy source.

With regards to the safety of a nuclear power station, in the UK the Health and Safety Executive
(HSE) make sure the correct health and safety regulations are in place –
nuclear power stations are as safe as any other energy generation power plant.
Furthermore, the security at UK nuclear power stations is governed by the
Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR) and they demand the plant designers adhere
to specific standards to show that the plant can withstand various security
risks. They regularly inspect nuclear power stations to make sure they comply
with its standards. Employees of the power station are subject to strict
vetting procedures before they can by employed to work at the power stations.
All UK nuclear power stations are guarded by a specialist armed unit, called
the Civil Nuclear Constabulary and also provide protection for nuclear waste
transit vehicles.

With regards to your comments about nuclear warheads, the majority of nuclear capable countries have
secret underground locations where their nuclear arsenal is kept. Pakistan for
example, which is a destable country at the moment and has many security risks
(such as militant attacks against civilians and the army), has many nuclear
weapons, and they are in secret locations around the country and they are well

Haroon Latif
MSc Oil and Gas Engineering

Trevor Strawbridge's picture


Fellow debaters lets look at some facts regarding Nuclear energy.

As far as I know there has been only 2 major disasters (Chenobyl and Fukashima) unless you wish to include 3 mile island and a handful of other nuclear incidents that have been exagerated by the media.

Firstly Chenobyl and Fukashima are worlds apart in the standard of construction maintenance and the applied regulations. That could explain how the Chenobyl disater was not contained as well as the  Japanese disaster. The leak from Japan was the result of a natural phenomena and perhaps the lesson that the Japanese could apply is " how do we protect out Nuclear power stations on coastal areas from potential Tsunami's" Whist Chenobyl's lesson should be "Should we build these power stations to a fit for intended use standard"

So coming back to the nuclear debate; 20% of our energy in the UK is generated from Nuclear power, we now have the technology to reprocess nuclear fuels, nuclear energy is clean and efficient, and in the UK we have had nuclear energy since the 1960's without any major incident due to the stringent regulations in place. This includes contruction and materials regulations. So I would ask this question: How many fatalities have we seen in the UK since the 1960's that are attributable to Coal, Oil & Gas, then ask how many are attributable to nuclear energy.

Trevor Strawbridge Subsea Distant Learner

Derek Porter.'s picture

I completely agree with your point Trevor regarding the safety of nuclear in the UK. As of now there have been no accidents or fatalities minus a few issues regarding the dumping of waste. The safety procedures clearly work.

By referring the debate to the developed and non-developed countries we can compare the stats (Ref 1). The OECD has had 0 accidents and 0 fatalities before 2000 in the nuclear sector where as oil and gas accidents total 255 and 4756 fatalities. These stats are taken from before 2000. This promotes the case for the UK to continue generating nuclear energy. The negative point is the indirect deaths caused by chernobyl alone tops 33000 fatalities and fukushima now adds aprox 100-1000). Can the UK guarantee an accident of this magnitude will never occur????? This is where the public can have their say.

Industry had set out its plans to develop up to 16GW of new nuclear power in the UK by 2025 in several sites in England thus creating jobs and a sustainable energy future. This introduces the new generation of nuclear reactor. (Ref 2) From Ref 1 we can confirm the new generation has alower accident rate but the public may feel the risk is too high. In my opinion I believe if managed, nuclear will be a dominant part of the UK and world's future energy mix.

Ref 1: OECD, 2010, Comparing nuclear accident risks with those from other energy sources, Nuclear development

Ref 2:

Richard Sedafor's picture

Nuclear energy has too many disadvantages and effects to be regarded as safe for humans and the environment.When the issue of safety is being discussed
in any area it is important to make it clear that there is nothing totally safe
in the world. Ranging from activities such as walking along the road, using a
taxi, taking a cup of coffee in a restaurant or even sleeping in your bedroom
none of these activities is totally safe.

But, the accidents that has resulted from Nuclear energy is too devastating; here are just a few.


  • On March 11, 2011, a strong earthquake hit off the
    coast of Japan. The resulting tsunami caused meltdowns at multiple
    reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. .
  • On April 26, 1986, the No. 4 reactor at the Chernobyl
    power plant (in the former U.S.S.R., present-day
    Ukraine) exploded, causing the worst nuclear accident
    • 30 people were killed instantly, including
      28 from radiation exposure, and a further 209
      on site were treated for acute radiation poisoning.
    • The World Health Organization found that
      the fallout from the explosion was incredibly
      far-reaching. For a time, radiation levels in
      Scotland, over 1400 miles (about 2300 km) away,
      were 10,000 times the norm.
    • According to the book Chernobyl: Consequences of the Catastrophe for People and the Environment, 985,000 deaths can be attributed to the Chernobyl accident between 1986 and 2004.
    • The accident cost the former Soviet Union
      more than three times the economic benefits
      accrued from the operation of every other Soviet
      nuclear power plant operated between 1954 and
  • In March of 1979, equipment failures and human
    error contributed to an accident at the Three Mile
    Island nuclear reactor at Harrisburg, Pennsylvania,
    the worst such accident in U.S. history. Consequences
    of the incident include radiation contamination
    of surrounding areas, increased cases of thyroid
    cancer, and plant mutations.
  • According to the U.S. House of Representatives
    Subcommittee on Oversight & Investigations,
    "Calculation of Reactor Accident Consequences
    (CRAC2) for US Nuclear Power Plants” (1982,
    1997), an accident at a US nuclear power plant could
    kill more people than were killed by the atomic
    bomb dropped on Nagasaki

With all these accidents, nuclear power only contributes 5.22% of the worlds total energy demand. Whilst other less hazardous industries such as coal and the oil industry are contributing 29.63% and 33.56% respectively. 

In my view, other more efficient sources of energy should be explored and improved since Nuclear power is not relatively safe.


Thomas Raymond Wellock. Critical Masses: Opposition to Nuclear Power in California, 1958-1978, The University of Wisconsin Press, 1998, 333 pp.

Trevor Strawbridge's picture

Hello Richard

Whilst I respect your point of view, I have to disagree with some of the points made. We know that Nuclear energy is unpopular and  has potential to cause fatalities if there were large leakage of radiation or reactor explosions etc. I also understand that Chenobyl, Fukashami and 3 mile island have all played their part. However, in my view Nuclear energy is more unpopular because its consequences of  (potential) failure would affect the general public. The three accidents stated have all had devestating consequences but not nearly on the same scale Aberfan, Bophal, Banquao Dam, St Francis Dam .... and so on. My reason for disagreeing: I currently reside within a 60 mile radius of 2 Nuclear power stations, I have spent time working on site at one of them (Hartlepool) and have visited the other (Toreness). The management regime in both stations is as optimal as would find anywhwere. They have strict preventive maitenance schemes, a rigid HSE management system and a workforce of qualified and motivated people. So whilst there are Nuclear risks, in the UK at least they are Managed.



Elvis.E.Osung's picture

nuclear energy may be considered relatively safe when compared with other energy sources like coal but is it sustainable. In the issue surrounding the safe use of nuclear energy it is also important to look at the aspect of sustainability.Sustainable energy is considered to be the sustainable provision of energy that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs. Technologies that promote sustainable energy include renewable energy sources, such as hydroelectricity, solar energy, wind energy, wave power, geothermal energy, and tidal power.

It is not a mistake that nuclear energy is not mentioned among the technologies promoting sustainable energy. nuclear energy majorly relies on Uranium, which is not a renewable source of energy. what happens when the uranium deposit is depleted??

Elvis.E.Osung's picture

The controversy surrounding nuclear waste disposal is a key consderation in the nuclear energy debate as this waste is harzardous.

The unanswered problem of nuclear power is what to do with nuclear waste. With about 440 nuclear reactors worldwide spread accross different continents, about 2,200 tons (2,000 metric tons) of nuclear waste is produced yearly without a safe place to put it. The nuclear industry practice involves storng waste in massive concrete structures as temproary measure, but as demand for nuclear power increases, this structures will no longer have the capacity to contain this waste.

countries like the united states and france are having to make tough and quick decisions based on their growing dependence on nuclear energy. while france considers the option of storing nuclear waste underground by digging tunnels into 150 milllion year old rock, the united states yucca mountain nuclear repository is being affected by policy makers indecision.

A safe nuclear facility can not be thought of without a complete management of the cycle of waste.

haroon latif's picture

I would like to add to Elvis’s comment about nuclear waste disposal. In the UK companies such as Magnox and the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) are undertaking the huge task of decommissioning several nuclear power stations. The UK has been processing nuclear power for over 60 years, and the disposal of waste has always been an issue. The NDA’s purpose states that they are to clean up the UK’s nuclear legacy in cost effective and safe manner and also to reduce hazard. Whilst the risks and hazards to the environment and local populations are not severe, they cannot be ignored.  Both of these companies are funded by the UK Government.  The NDA’s annual expenditure for 2012/2013 is expected to be £3 billion. According to the NDA the nuclear legacy is a major liability estimated to worth around £50 billion. Not only is it highly expensive (at cost to the UK tax payer) to decommission these plants, but also environmentally challenging. [1] Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (2012) -


Akuromawaye Apiambo's picture

Is Nuclear power safe for human and the environment? As the question implies, I will say no.

An accident resulting in a large radiological release to the environment could definitely occur in any nuclear power plant. The case of Fukushima, a meltdown that release huge amount of radioactivity, a series of explosions and fires at the six nuclear power plant in Japan dated march 11, 2011 which was caused by a world record earthquakes, magnitude 9, a 10 meter tsunami.

The Nuclear power plant just like any modern plant built and designed putting into consideration all safety factors, reliability and others factors, there are possibility of some basic failure events such as:

1. Events related to Human beings: Operator error, Design error and Maintenance error.

2. Events related to Hardware: Leakage or release of radiation, Loss of cooling system, Incorrect measurement by sensors.

3. Events related to Environment: Earthquakes, Storm, Flood and Lightning.

Basically as mentioned the Acts of God which are related to events linked to the environment could not be ruled out.
Further, global terrorism is also an issue either by individuals or by groups. Terrorist with the tactical skill to attack a nuclear plant would find it fairly easy to blow a hole in the containment building. Thus the consequence of a nuclear power accident is not safe for human and the environment.

The three best known serious nuclear power accidents are those of Three Mile Island in 1979, Chernobyl 1986, and now Fukushima. But there have been many more accidents and partial core meltdowns releasing radioactivity.
A study commissioned by Greenpeace concluded that the Chernobyl accident may have resulted in an estimated 200,000 additional deaths in Belarus, Russia and Ukraine alone between 1990 and 2004. The nuclear power plants in Fukushima have about thirty times as much radioactive material as the reactor that exploded in Chernobyl, and Japan is much more densely populated.
Even if there were no accidents, no solution has yet been found in over 50 years for the safe storage of the radioactive waste produced by nuclear power plants. One of the by-products, plutonium 239, has a half-life of 24,100 years. That means, after 24,100 years, the intensity of radiation has declined by only 50%. It will take 241,000 years until the radiation has declined by a factor of 1000, which is considered a safe level. How can we guarantee that our descendants will not be exposed to those wastes for 10,000 generations?


1. Dietrich, F. (2011) How safe is Nuclear Power. [Online]. Available from: [Accessed 16 October 2012].

2. Tracy, S. (2010) Is Nuclear Energy Safe. [Online]. Available from: [Accessed 16 October 2012].

3. Dr. Chakib, k., Reliability and safety Management, Lecture outline FTA.[Online]. Available from: [Accessed 16 October 2012].


Apiambo Akuromawaye

MSC Subsea Engineering

University of Aberdeen.

Leziga Bakor's picture

Firstly we must define what safety is to ascertain if nuclear energy is safe for humans.  The word safety refers to freedom from danger, injury and damage and it also refers to security of persons. Nuclear energy has issues relating to safety and as such is not totally safe for humans and the environment.
The key issue of nuclear energy is the radioactive waste produce from its use. These wastes possess a threat to the human environment as it causes birth defects, mental health impact and death among others to humans. Though these issues exist, if a nuclear plant is built and its waste properly disposed, then the treat is reduced to a very low level that is deem safe for human environment. Without much thinking it has been established that there is no absolute safety and as such a nuclear plant built with all the highest level of safety can still pose a serious threat. In the wake of a war or natural disaster, the radioactive waste can leak and harm the environment and humans exposed to the leakage. The Chernobyl nuclear disaster in Ukraine and Fukushima-Daiichi nuclear disaster in Japan are examples of such.
Comparing Nuclear energy to other forms of energy such as coal and fossil fuels, it releases less radioactive waste than coal fired power plants and it does not releases greenhouse gases.
In conclusion, I would say nuclear energy is not totally safe but in comparison to other forms of energy, it is safe for the human environment if properly operated and its waste carefully disposed.

Soseleye F. Ideriah's picture

The Nuclear fission process is well understood by today’s
technologists and thus forms the science behind all currently running commercial
nuclear reactors. The process aims to induce and control fission but with the
high levels of radioactivity involved, failure events may produce catastrophic
consequences (the Chernobyl and the Fukushima-Daiichi disasters come to mind). Advances
in technology have considerably improved the safety of nuclear reactors for
example, an intermediate heat exchanger may be added to the system to convert another
loop of water to steam, ensuring radioactive water/ steam never contacts the
turbine. Advances in technology have considerably improved the safety of
nuclear fission reactors for example, an intermediate heat exchanger may be
added to the system to convert another loop of water to steam, ensuring
radioactive water/ steam never contacts the turbine [1]. In all, it should be
noted that nuclear power causes the least number of deaths per TWh (just 0.04
deaths per TWh) in comparison with other energy sources [2].


2 University of Aberdeen Lecture notes: Fundamental Safety
Engineering and Risk Management Concepts (University Lecture 1)

Soseleye F. Ideriah's picture

Nuclear energy may also refer to Nuclear Fusion. This kind
of nuclear process which involves the coming together of two nuclei rather than
the splitting of a heavier nucleus promises to be a clean energy option, using
abundant fuel sources, minimising radiation leakages and producing little or no
radioactive waste. Notwithstanding the fact that Nuclear Fission reactors have
been analysed as the safest source of energy, some environmental activists
frown at the amount of radioactive substances emitted by this process. Commercialisation
of Nuclear Fusion will go a long way in changing the general perception of
Nuclear energy. Fusion reactors are however still a few years from being
commercialised, with research entering new grounds (for example, the ITER

Henry Tan's picture

You may like to provide a link to the ITER project?

YAKUBU ABUBAKAR 51126107's picture

Nuclear power plant generate more than 13.5% of the world
electricity, from about 981 nuclear plant ranging from already operational, under
construction, planned and proposed with a combine capacity of 370,461Mega watt
equivalent spanning over 30 countries (encyclopaedia,EG5066).

Whether is safe to keep operating nuclear power plant to
generate electricity is a relative term in my own opinion, because since
1949-2010 there were only 27 (encyclopaedia) recorded accident with a combine
number of 99 deaths directly related to nuclear accidents from both civilian
and military.

Nuclear safety just like any other sensitive operational
undertaken human error is always a factor which you cannot totally eliminates.
Almost all the accidents in the past were due to human error with the exception
of Fukushima in japan that was caused by natural disaster.

Another area of safety concern is the waste that is
highly radioactive, which scientist are now considering burring the waste
beneath a depleted oil and gas reservoir in a covered shield thick metal.

As compared to coal power plant from 1949-date there are
over 250,000 deaths in china alone which is thousand times higher than nuclear
power, and yet people are not seriously questioning the safety of the sector (encyclopaedia).

And Coal power station has greenhouse emission causing
serious environmental challenges of global warming etc.

Nuclear power in my opinion is still important in providing
clean and cheap sources of energy to the world and with more improvement in
safety and minimising human error is safe form of energy for years to come.



EG5066 Energy Futures.

Yakubu Abubakar.


Menelaos Michelakis's picture

(Responst to Haroon Latif, after a while, because i saw your comment late, adding information to previous posts)

Nuclear energy is neither safe nor free ! Uranium reserves are depleting and humanity with current retes of use will deplete them in two generations maximum. As we learnt in Energy Technologies course, Thorium can be used instead, which is 3 times more abundant. the point here, is that nuclear energy is not free !

It is cleaner than fossil fuels by the aspect of emissions, true ! You can read another post i have meden in the main discussion window comparing fossil fuels to nuclear energy, if this is not hard, so i agree with you up to a point. But nuclear wastes need long-term storage, in order to satisfy concers of public. Xenios Zenieris, and others have maden good posts on this topic.

There are good safety rates for people who work in nuclear installations, and technology is advanced enough to prevent an accident, but terrorist attacks, sabotage or even an attack during war are possibilities that cannot be ignored, see my previous post on this topic.

Beyond nuclear weapon installations you refered (arsenals), that must be guarded, nuclear energy production plants sould be guarded by the army, carefully, and this is obligatory due to human nature.

What i try to explain is that nuclear energy is safe from certain aspects (advanced technology, better control of reaction etc.) but unsafe from other aspects ( a terrorist attack, sabotage, a large scale war). So, safety cannot be guaranteed because of the agressive nature some people have.

Ref : G.Boyle, B.Everett, J.Ramage, (2003) - Energy systems and sustainability, for a sustainable future


haroon latif's picture

Menelaos, I agree with your comment about Thorium. It will eventually become the main of source of fuel for nuclear energy after uranium. However, I believe uranium still has potential to be the fuel of the future, should nuclear fusion technology come into play. Theoretically it is said that fuel within a fusion reactor can last up to a 1000 years.

Also, I believe Nuclear energy it is as safe as any other energy technology - such as Coal, Oil and Gas or Renewable. There have been cases in the US where communities located adjacent to Coal power stations, have been exposed to greater amounts of radiation than those living near a Nuclear power station!

With regards to nuclear weapons, I believe there is no chance any country will use a nuclear weapon on another - especially after the legacy of WW2. Countries build nuclear weapons as a deterrent only. To mitigate the risk of a of terrorist attack or theft of nuclear weapons/material countries such as the UK use submarines (i.e. Trident) to safely hold their arsenals. REF: MacKay D (2009) Sustainable Energy – ebook Version 2.5.3

Michail.Sevasteiadis's picture

The worldwide demand for energy during the last century has led humanity to search for new energy sources. One of them which faced radical advance over the years was the production of electricity from the nuclear energy produced at the nuclear power plants.

Despite the technological improvements and the strict safety measures taken there have been many accidents causing fatalities and serious environmental impacts. Especially after the last nuclear accident at Fukushima reactor, the European Union took the decision to assess all the nuclear reactors of the member countries in order to verify if the safety levels remain high.

According to a draft of this report which was leaked to the media earlier this October, there were found many defects in reactors across Europe that could cause a fatal accident. However the official report was later released and shows that although safety is still in high levels, there could be improved more.

Could it be a political cover-up to avoid energy crisis and protests concerning safety and how civilians could be sure about the opposite?

Duo Wu's picture

With what Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant happened last year, the classical topic has been asked again which was nuclear power safety of humans and the environment.According to the information I know, it is safe, in some sense, at least.After generations of nuclear scientists’ working, to prevent fuel rod melting has been located to be the key point of nuclear power plant safety. The tubes containing the fuel pellets are sealed: these tubes are called fuel rods. And nuclear-energy experts declare that they have found effective ways for dealing with it. Historically, both Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Disaster and Chernobyl Disaster are generated from fuel rods melting. Both of them did not cooling when it needed because of human factor, resulted in nuclear radiation. It is said the developing third generation of nuclear power technology will solve this problem effectively.

Duo Wu


Duo Wu's picture

Furthermore, we can’t live without nuclear power in the future. Nowadays, Fossils fuels such as petroleum, natural gas and coal are the major sources of energy in the world. Unfortunately, they are non-renewable energy resource and burning fossil fuels will give environment a huge emission of greenhouse gases and harmful gases. Considering sustainable development, alternative energy should be found. Up to now, the only source follow the fossils fuels ability up is nuclear. It can achieve industrial applying requirement and large-scale substitute for fossils fuels. According to a report from International Atomic Energy Agency, almost one fifth electrical power generated from nuclear right now.

Andy Reid's picture

 In order to attempt to answer this question, one must first define what is meant by the term "safe". For the purposes of this discussion, I'll look at nuclear power in line with the "ALARP" philosophy.

The HSE website defines ALARP as follows:


"ALARP" is short for "as low as reasonably practicable". "SFAIRP" is short for "so far as is reasonably practicable". The two terms mean essentially the same thing and at their core is the concept of "reasonably practicable"; this involves weighing a risk against the trouble, time and money needed to control it. Thus, ALARP describes the level to which we expect to see workplace risks controlled. [1]"

With this in mind, nuclear power can be described as being "safe" as long as the risks have been mitigated as far as possible in accordance with ALARP and the residual risk is acceptably low.

Although tragedies at Fukushima and Chernobyl have left huge black marks on the safety record of nuclear power, nuclear power still has a significantly lower record than traditional fossil fuels do for causing a loss of human life[2]. Furthermore, with the advancement of safety systems, SIL rated hardware functions and our better understanding of nuclear power and the inherent risks, nuclear power is only getting safer as we move forward.


Andy Reid



Andy Reid's picture

 Nuclear power and all its associated disasters have all been attributable to the use of Uranium as fissionable fuel. Use of a different, more stable and more easily controllable substance would greatly reduce the risk involved in producing nuclear energy. Thorium may prove to be just such a material[1]. Thorium based reactors also have a unique safety feature, where a fully computer-less system can shut down a reactor in the event of overheating. Quoting former NASA engineer Kirk Sorensen:

"The reactor has an amazing safety feature... if it begins to overheat, a little plug melts and the salts drain into a pan. There is no need for computers, or the sort of electrical pumps that were crippled by the tsunami. The reactor saves itself...[2]"

Nuclear power may not be as safe as renewable energy or clean, green power sources but with proper research, safety analysis and risk reduction nuclear power could very well wind up being a long term replacement for Oil and Gas as our main source of power.


Andy Reid



Ajay.Kale's picture

Nuclear power has something of a checkered history. Although it does provide carbon-free energy at reasonable prices, it has exposed its dangerous side with near meltdowns and leaked radiation.

There is end for hydro carbon ( oil & Gas ) stock piles on this earth.
In next 30-50 years we will finished exploting hydro carbon.We are now a days drilling upto 4500 m to recover remaining oil under sea.
Oil industrying is investing not only in conventional methods of exploration but other non conventional like shale gas (Fracking), oil sand (Oil sands, tar sands or, more technically, bituminous sands, are a type of unconventional petroleum deposit) & other option is Nuclear energy. The most of oil from middle east is drying now a days.

The other big option is Nuclear power

Saudi Arabia Could be an Oil Importer by ~2030 — Saudi Arabia is the world’s largest oil producer (11.1mbpd) & exporter (7.7mbpd). It also consumes 25% of its production. Energy consumption per capita exceeds that of most industrial nations. Oil & its derivatives account for ~50% of Saudi’s electricity production, used mostly (>50%) for residential use. Peak power demand is growing by ~8%/yr. Our analysis shows that if nothing changes Saudi may have no available oil for export by 2030.

Nuclear power is the primary source of electric power in France. In 2004, 425.8 TWh out of the country's total production of 540.6 TWh of electricity was from nuclear power (78.8%), the highest percentage in the world

Nuclear power is the fourth-largest source of electricity in India after thermal, hydroelectric and renewable sources of electricity.[1] As of 2010, India has 20 nuclear reactors in operation in six nuclear power plants, generating 4,780 MW[2] while seven other reactors are under construction and are expected to generate an additional 5,300  MW.[3]

Neclear energy must be regulated in strictly manner to avoid (proliferation) to get in hands of terrorists.

All countires muct sign NPT agreement with International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)


Richard Milne's picture

I would like to add to this post by surmising the reason that people are more fearful of Nuclear Power than any other source of Energy. With all of our current sources of energy (Oil, Gas, Coal, Wind, Wave) it is easy to see or hear the danger for the regular consumer. Oil leaking out of a pipe or tank is visible, a gas leak is audible or can be smelled (after treating), coal is perceived as safe because we have kept it under our houses for centuries with no recorded incidents, with wind, everyone can tell that they are supposed to stay away from turbines and the sea has been a known danger for a long time.

Radiation however, is invisible, inaudible and takes special measures to detect it. Humans tend to be scared of things they cannot see and therefore find Nuclear power very scary.

I also wonder whether popular culture has played a part in the fear of Nuclear power. How many movies start with a character having his genes altered by radiation? No one wants to live near a Nuclear Power Station if they think they might turn into the Hulk over night!

Going back even further (although I think this has already been touched on), Nuclear power was something that previous generations have been taught to hide under desks from. The entire Cold War was made from people being scared of Radiation.

In short, how much of the fear of Nuclear power has been emphasised by the way it has been perceived previously and not the way it would be perceived if it was turned into a bomb AFTER the first power plant had begun successfully powering a city?

Yaw Akyampon Boakye-Ansah's picture

To borrow
these words, "Apart from Chernobyl, no nuclear workers or members of the public
have ever died as a result of exposure to radiation due to a commercial nuclear
reactor incident."

to the opening statement in this paper, the risk due to the operations of
nuclear energy were already known or anticipated and expected, and much has
been considered in the set-up of many nuclear plants. It is common knowledge
that every form of energy presents its own hazards inherent to it. Energy if
not well controlled under any circumstance is hazardous.

search for minerals also has their own economic impacts which are very negative
on the environment. Vast farming lands are destroyed due to the mining
activities. Chemicals intended for the improvement in harvest also have
negative impact on some flora and fauna.

human activities yield risks and some of the resultant effects are hazardous
yet are allowed to a tolerable limit. Nuclear energy also falls within the same
rank. But even in this case, due to the vast and improving knowledge on the
impact of nuclear hazards should they not be contained, much has been done to
ensure it does not reach that stage. Only highly trained personnel are allowed
to work in nuclear facilities. Nuclear materials are handled under extreme
caution and usually in non-reactant states. Nuclear plants are built with lots
of safety features which are not easily breached. Scientists and technicians
around nuclear materials wear nuclear badges to ensure they are not overexposed
and this has proven successful over all these years harnessing nuclear energy.

only major challenge is the safe disposal of nuclear waste which with growing
and current technology, might soon be a challenge of the past. Transporting
nuclear waste to space is an option and yet not a very viable one.

to the fact that, the energy harnessed from nuclear energy far outweigh the
hazard posed to humans who work with it, I do not see the need to abort its

Henry Tan's picture

I have read many similar posts on the safety of nuclear energy. We may need someone to summarize all the previous discussions and give conclusions.

Andy Reid's picture

Continuing your idea - instead of concluding the discussion, it may be worthwile moving into a debate format.

The reason I suggest it is that I believe it may yeild some interesting results regarding people's opinions on whether the historic casualties and disasters are outweighed by our faith in safety engineering.

An example of the jump we have taken in technology since the likes of Chernobyl is that the IEC Functional Safety Standard 61508 was only published in 1998<1> so our whole safety system has been completely overhauled since. I'd be interested to see how many people think that the potential scale of a nuclear disaster outweighs the strength of the safeguards we are in a position to apply?



1 -

Tianchi You's picture

Because of the reason that nuclear plant is one of the most sophisticated work among all the human desgins ,managements, and operation,it is hard to ensure its safety.Once something is a complex object,there is no 100% guarantee to make sure everything goes well.However,we could not ignore the reality that nuclear plants have made incredible contribution to our society.Normally when people talk about nuclear plant ,they may think it is dangerous because of the uranium and plutonium it used,once an accident happened ,the consequence it can bring is beyond people's imagination.For example the three miles nuclear accident and the Chernobyl accident. According to a recent U.N study,it estimates that the disaster caused at least 6,000 cases of thyroid cancer in children.Most of them were caused through the contaminated milk.

We all know that nuclear plant does bring a lot of profit to a country and effiency on a national electricity system,it seems like the fracking which is used for oil&gas.What we need to do is learning the principle of these similar technologies , try to do new research which can make a contribution to decrease the risk of the consequence it may cause and take strict management on them.

Consequently,my opinion of the nuclear safety is postive,I don't think it will be dangerous to human and environment if people and government can take methods decrese the risk to the minimum. Finance and technology may be 2 biggest questions ,but there are still many measures we can take to improve the safety. 



Tianchi You


Thomas James Smith's picture

The main focus of this debate is on plant operation, but we should really look at the full requirements for giving us this ‘clean’ source of power.  The Uranium required for Nuclear power stations is obtained by mining.  I'm sure that I’ve read somewhere (safety notes) that mining is one of the more dangerous activities, with regards to deaths and serious injuries, in the power industry.  Mining for uranium also exposes the miners to radiation.

‘Uranium mining has exposed more workers to radiation than any other industry - causing 20,000 deaths since the 1950s.’ [1]



So operationally, green house gas etc, nuclear power may appear a better option.  But when you add up the collection of the required materials (mining) operational risk (the odd failure causes high contamination) and the management of the byproduct (drill a big hole and bury it for someone else to deal with) I’m not sure it is the answer to our energy problems.

Mark Haley's picture

When asking the question of whether nuclear power is safe for humans and the environment we should perhaps ask the question 'what is the public perception of nuclear power compared with the facts?'The issue is that the public only sees Chernobyl and Fukushima, it does not see the bigger picture with the success stories in nuclear reactors or the safety procedures put in place to protect them as these are never reported in the media.  On the other side, the public do not worry so much about oil and gas in comparison to nuclear power, but when we look at the figures they can be quite eye opening. Loss of life, Oil and Gas vs Nuclear: Casualty figures for period 1969 – 2000 (Source OECD)


Oil and Gas

Number of Fatal Casualties

Possible Latent Fatalities
960000(for year 2000 alone)
33000 (Chernobyl)


The number of recorded casualties clearly shows that nuclear is far safer than Oil and Gas.  However, the public fear about nuclear energy is in the hidden latent deaths caused by radiation exposure. 

It is estimated that there is a possible 33000 latent deaths due to the radiation release at Chernobyl over the next 70 years, but these figures are based on a linear non-threshold effect.  If these figures were taken at face value it would mean that the natural background radiation would cause some 1500 times more casualties than Chernobyl.  It is therefore worth looking at the figure of 33000 latent deaths with a degree of scepticism.When we compare the worst nuclear incident in human history to a standard year using Oil and Gas we see that an estimate for the premature deaths from levels of particulates in the air in the year 2000 alone is 960000 of which 30% is attributed to energy sources. Therefore, we come back to the question, is nuclear power safe for humans and the environment?  The answer to whether it is safe for humans is no it is not, but nothing is 100% safe.  However, relatively speaking compared to Oil and Gas, nuclear is far safer and the safety around nuclear is only improving as the technology matures.  Maybe if more was spent on educating the public on the relative risks the perception would change?

Mark Haley

Etienne Gunter's picture

In support to your statement, the problem we have is the perception of nuclear power.

When you think of an accident, you start recalling images of WWII, Chernobyl and the likes. But looking at the recorded (not predicted) statistics, it paints a different picture. This is not to say that nuclear power is 100% safe and that we do not need to keep on improving our safety measures. The potential risks are very high, and therefore we need to keep our standards high.

The problem with public view is that one or two incidents (compared to many in other industries) have formed a perception and we struggle to get rid of it. It reminds me of the influence that the movie JAWS had on people. It has forever (and almost irrevocably) changed the view people have of sharks. Irrespective that worldwide fatal incedents are minimal, the images are sensational when reported. The same goes for nuclear power.


Siwei Kang's picture

I couldn't agree with u anymore. The real problem we facing is how much we really do know nuclear power plants before answering the question. In reality, I believe nuclear power is the most safest one in all the energy generation ways we are using. Due to the catastrophic  effect of nuclear accidents producing, all nuclear power plants are equipped with high level security and safety precautionary measures. They can resist earthquake above 6 magnitude, aircraft crash and even missile attacks. Of course we have experienced serveal nuclear accidents which jeopardized our living environment and health, but if we look at the causes of accidents, it is easy to find almost all accidents were resulted from man-made mistake. 

As we can see the comparison between nuclear and oil&gas posted by Mark Haley, it is obvious the number of fatalities in nuclear power is much smaller than that in oil&gas. Besides, the most important thing we should realize is that we could not conclude that travelling by cars is safer than by planes only based on the worse effects caused by plane crashes. We should consider comprehensive safety factors before judging, like annual number of fatalities, frequency and others.

Anyway, I strongly believe that nuclear power is safe and envirnomental friendly if we design, operate and maintain it properly. 

Oluwatadegbe Adesunloye Oyolola's picture

The main objective in managing and disposing waste is to protect people and the environment. Thus, all toxic wastes need to be treated safely, not only the radioactive wastes. In countries with nuclear power, radioactive wastes consist of less than 1% of the total industrial toxic wastes. The following facts should be noted in
determining the degree of safety associated with nuclear plants. Nuclear power is the only large-scale energy generating technology that takes complete responsibility for all its waste. The dissipated amount of radioactive waste is especially minute compared to waste generated by fossil fuel electricity. Wastes from nuclear plants are less hazardous and easier to manage than some toxic-related compounds associated with other industrial waste.

Radwaste, as it’s often called, is the radioactive waste gotten from the nuclear plant fuel cycle. There are established technologies employed to accommodate and
dispose radwaste at every stage of the nuclear plant fuel cycle. For low and middle level radwaste, they are mostly being implemented. For high level radwaste, some nations (France for example) wait on the accumulation of enough radwaste to justify building geological repositories, in line with the international consensus that high-level
radioactive waste be geologically disposed. Other countries (USA for example) have encountered political setbacks.

The hazardous level of radwaste reduces with time, unlike other toxic industrial waste. Every radionuclide contained in radwaste has a half-life, some have long
half-lives (alpha and beta emitters) while others have short half-lives (gamma ray emitters). Eventually each radioactive wastes decay into non-radioactive
elements, with the most radioactive isotopes decaying fastest.

Reference: -




Adesunloye-Oyolola Oluwatadegbe

Msc Oil and Gas Engineering

Bassey Kufre Peter's picture

In today’s world, there is a rapidly-increasing world demand for energy, and especially for electricity. Much of the electricity demanded is for continuous, reliable supply on a large scale, which generally only fossil fuels and nuclear power can meet.

The fuel for the generation of nuclear power is uranium, and uranium’s only substantial non-weapon’s use is to power nuclear reactors. Presently, there are 900 nuclear reactors operating around the world. These include: 

1. About 260 small reactors, used for research and for producing  isotopes for medicine and industry  in 56 countries,   

2. Over 220 small reactors powering about 150 ships, mostly submarines,

3. Some 440 larger reactors generating electricity in 30 countries .  

In practical terms, all of the uranium produced today is used in the generation of electricity with a significant small  proportion used for producing radioisotopes.

Over the last 50 years, nuclear energy has become a major source of the world’s electricity. The nuclear power now provides about 16% of the world’s total. 

Before I affirm if nuclear energy is safe for humans and environment, let us take a critical look of accident statistics in primary energy production in table 1:

Table 1: Comparison of accident Statistics in Primary Energy Production



Coal        6400      Workers                  342

Natural Gas     1200      Workers & Public          85

Hydro        4000      Public                  883

Nuclear        31      Workers                  8

*Basis: per million MWe operating for one year (i.e about three times world nuclear power capacity), not including plant construction, based on  historic data-which is unlikely to represent current safety levels in any of the industries concerned. The data in this column was published in 2001 but is consistent with that from 1996-2011, where it is pointed out that the coal total would be about ten times greater if accidents with less than five fatalities were included.

Source: Ball, Roberts & Simpson, Research Report #20, Centre for Environmental & Risk Management, University of East Anglia, 1994; Hirschberg et al, Paul Scherrer Institute, 1996: In: IAEA, Sustainable Development and Nuclear Power, 1997; Severe Accidents in the Energy Sector, Paul Scherrer Institute, 2001.

 From the above table, it is obvious that Nuclear power is the safest form  form energy generation to human and environment among the other means of power generation,  nuclear power is now chosen as a green alternative to burning coal to produce energy because it does not produce any pollutant in the air and as such has minimal environmental impact on the earth during its operations, It does not leave any trace of carbon in the air, hence it dose not produce carbon (IV) oxide directly into the air which causes greenhouse  gas, after comparing three criteria  in generating power which are PUBLIC HEALTH, ENVIRONMENTAL AND ECONOMIC IMPACT ,nuclear energy is most viable option for energy. The following precautions should also be taken to keep  any hazards in the plant ALARP  :

1. Optimization – Radiation doses and risks should be kept as Low as Reasonably Practicable (ALARP), economic and social factors being taken into account.

2. Limitation – The  exposure of individual should be subject to dose or risk limits above which the radiation risk would be deemed unacceptable.

3. Justification -  No practice involving exposure to radiation should be adopted unless it produces a net benefit to those exposed or to society generally.

4. Adherence – Standards, guidelines and HSE regulation should be rightly apply in the design of the reactor as any lapses may result in a devastating effect to humans and environment. 

5. Competent workers- This a very sensitive sector, hence the company, Government should employ qualify staff and training should be given to its staff about the new innovations.


1. Hore-Lacy, I., (2007) ‘Nuclear Energy in 21st Century’ pp. 7-9, 111-125 [Online].Available at: , [Accessed 03 November 2012] .                                                                                                                               


Bassey, Kufre Peter
M.Sc-Subsea Engineering-2012/2013
University of Aberdeen.

Abiaziem Davidson's picture

Nuclear Power is believed to be the cheapest form of future energy supply and too cheap to meter as proclaimed by Admiral Lewis L. Strauss, then Chair of the U.S Atomic Energy Commission in 1955. Nuclear Energy is expected to be the primary source of electricity source and creation of employment opportunities but the question is “is nuclear power safe for human and the environment?”


Growth of this new power generation era has being experiencing major set-backs as the concern to the set-back relates to human and environmental safety and there has been quite lots of social movement and debates against the use of nuclear power and nuclear technologies. High cost of building a nuclear power plant, sitting challenges and construction delays were the main unanticipated public resistance to nuclear power and later deepened by the accident at Three Mile Island, Pennslyania in 1979.


It should be interesting to note that routine risk and greenhouse gas emissions from nuclear power are very small compared to those associated with coal and that nuclear power has caused fewer accident deaths per unit of the energy generated than other major forms of power generation. With the advance in technology, nuclear power industry has improved the safety and performance of reactors, proposed safer reactor designs and improved operational method. The major on-going safety concern is about terrorist group acquiring nuclear technology for bomb-making material.


The cause of producing power through nuclear energy is cheaper than many other renewable sources including its effects on environmental and health cost, one major effect of nuclear power is change in climatic condition; causing weather extremes such as heat waves, reduced precipitation and droughts.


Nuclear Power is safe for human and environment provided all safety and envrionmental rules guiding its operation is strictly implemented.

YAKUBU ABUBAKAR 51126107's picture

Is Nuclear energy safe for humans and environment I think
the answer is not YES or NO but it depends.
The reason why I said that is because among the conventional form of energy we
have statistics has shown that Nuclear has the lowest rate of accidents and
produce the highest amount of energy at the lowest cost and zero carbon
emission compare to other ones like coal, fossils fuels etc. Even though I must
to admit that the few accidents that happen resulted in too much consequence/fatalities
and the storage of the radioactive is still an issue. But still, Nuclear energy
with the right level of regulations and improve in technology is a relatively
safer energy source as compare to most of the conventional ones that are now
the major causes of pollution and  global

If I may ask how much 
 effect of global warming to human
and the environment the answer is much more than the overall effect of the few
nuclear accidents combine. So indirectly the conventional energy sources are
more harmful to human and the environments due to the massive amount of
pollution of toxic gasses to the environment. For the interest of energy
security and global warming Nuclear energy is still safe for human and the environment
because of the clean energy it provide. Thank you.

Yakubu Abubakar

Trevor Strawbridge's picture

After reading many of the blogs and comments above the one that has intrigued me most is the reference to the ITER project. This was previously unknown to me, and since I have had a browse on the website (link below)my curiosity has multiplied. The operation is via use of a constructed magnetic chamber called the Tomahawk. The principle is that 2 H2  atoms are brought together (fission) in the chamber to produce high energy plasma from the resulting helium. The heat energy created will be transferred to electrical energy by steam turbines. The difference in this concept is that; if the claims are proven, then the radioactive waste is relatively small in quantity and most has a ½ life of less than 10 years compared with the 50-60years of current waste materials (excluding low level waste).

However, not all is positive as it seems. The negative side is that the project is not due to produce “trial” electricity until 2022, and commercially 15years is the current target. The problem here is that projects of this nature, as far as time is concerned, are at risk of developing what could be “old technology” by the time it is commissioned. Furthermore as our economy faces changes in governments, funds, policy’s etc, there is always the possibility that the project may become withdrawn and that already constructed plant is effectively a “White Elephant”.

I would love to hear you views but I would encourage you to view the website.


Kyeyune Joseph's picture

Nuclear power is generated from fission/fusion of radioactive elements such as Uranium. At the moment, about 30 countries are producing electricity from nuclear power plants. As regards to safety of nuclear energy, a number of issues do arise both positive and negative. They include the following:

On the positive note, considering carbon footprint or carbon dioxide emissions, this form of energy can be considered clean when compared to other power sources such as coal, oil and gas. Additionally, if considering quantities of waste from a typical nuclear plant per a year, this form of energy produces less waste as compared to other sources of energy such as coal. According to the International Energy Atomic Agency, a typical Light Water Reactor will produce 6million tonnes of waste annually in comparison to 20million tonnes of carbon dioxide released by a coal powered plant of similar size into the atmosphere moreover in addition to other effluents. 

However, on the other side of the coin, most of the nuclear plants are operated on open cycles. This means that they cannot recycle spent fuel. Only five countries (UK, USA, China, Russia& France) have plants that operate on closed cycles. This means that plants with open cycles are facing challenges of nuclear waste that is accumulating. This poses the biggest threat to human life due to its radioactivity. At the moment, there isn’t any safe waste storage technology available. Finland is pioneering geological storage. However, its effectiveness is still questioned.
Ability to withstand disasters such as earth quakes and Tsunamis like in Japan is also another concern as regards nuclear energy. Though it can be argued that the Japan case wasn’t actually a failure of nuclear reactor system but rather power generators supplying coolant pumps, it should be noted that reactor’s failure to cope with the situation led to disasters that created serious safety concerns. 
Weapons proliferation is another safety issue in nuclear energy especially from nuclear waste. Plutonium from nuclear waste can be used to make weapons that in reality threaten existence of human kind!
In lieu of the above, I would argue that unless a safe nuclear waste depository method is devised, this form of energy is not safe for humans and the environment.

eddy itamah's picture

With the world experience in nuclear power for electricity generation, with about 15,000 reactor - years of civil operation, only two commercial accidents have been recorded in nuclear power reactors where the effects were not considerably contained within the structure and design of the reactor. In the same vein, one could include another 12,000 reactor - years of naval operation, which has had an excellent safety record in the west.

The chernobyl 1986 disaster and the fukushima accident in 2011 are the only accidents which have resulted in the release of radiation doses to the public greater than those occurring from the natural sources. Ever since the chernobyl tragedy, no nuclear workers or any members of the public have ever died due to exposure to radiation from a commercial nuclear reactor accident or incident. This have been applauded as remarkable for the first six decades of a complex new technology which is being deployed in over 30 countries, in which some reactors operating have been built for over forty years now.

Accident in nuclear power plants are primarily due to loss of cooling. This may eventually lead to overheating of the fuel in the reactor core, melting and releasing fission products. Thus, the provision of emergency core cooling system on standby. Should this fail, due to power loss as in fukushima, other protective barrier come into play. Normally, the reactor core is enclosed in a structure designed to prevent the release of radioactive substance into the environment. This is one of the regulatory requirements for nuclear plants that the effect of any core - melt accident must be confined to the plant itself, without evacuating nearby residents, which was apparent at fukushima in the first few days.

Report shows that about one third of the capital cost of reactors is due to engineering design gear toward enhancing the safety of the people, the operators and the environment should anything go wrong. This therefore shows that nuclear power is safe for both human and the environment.


Reference _nuclear_power. 

From the safety perspective, the utilization of nuclear power is very similar to taking
airplane. Normally nuclear power is extraordinarily safe for high efficient
safety system is used to make sure that accident rate will be reduced to very
little. However, once accidents like nuclear leakage in Japanese occur, as a
result, imponderable consequences may come up. There has been a large scale safety
regime around the world which includes series of international legal instruments,
internationally agreed safety standards, peer review and assessment, nationally
integrated systems of governmental and regulatory control, and research and
development. Under such architecture, the safety of nuclear power has nothing in
comparison with that in 1986 when accident at Chernobyl occurred. Nonetheless,
the risk of nuclear power accident will exist forever and there are still possibilities
to improve the safety of nuclear power.

From the safety perspective, the utilization of nuclear power is very similar to taking
airplane. Normally nuclear power is extraordinarily safe for high efficient
safety system is used to make sure that accident rate will be reduced to very
little. However, once accidents like nuclear leakage in Japanese occur, as a
result, imponderable consequences may come up. There has been a large scale safety
regime around the world which includes series of international legal instruments,
internationally agreed safety standards, peer review and assessment, nationally
integrated systems of governmental and regulatory control, and research and
development. Under such architecture, the safety of nuclear power has nothing in
comparison with that in 1986 when accident at Chernobyl occurred. Nonetheless,
the risk of nuclear power accident will exist forever and there are still possibilities
to improve the safety of nuclear power.

William J. Wilson's picture

I have noted with interest throughout this blog and my research into nuclear power that there is a large proportion of the UK population against nuclear power (this probably exists due to the historical use of nuclear power as weapons and fear mongering by politicians).  A perfect example of this is with the SNP (Scottish National Party) whose policy is strictly against nuclear power stations and nuclear weapons and they endeavour to eject all current facilities out of the country.  This has in turn meant that companies like E.ON and RWE have pulled out of developing nuclear power in the UK.

Essentially if governments don’t promote nuclear power, companies won’t invest which in turn slows down investment in safety and control research of nuclear power.  If companies cannot convince the public and governments that nuclear power is safe then nuclear power will always be seen as “dangerous”.  There is certainly a public perception that nuclear power is currently unsafe and the political environment at the moment does not merit future power stations to be built.  Even if a risk assessment was carried out which provided strong evidence that nuclear power was 100% safe, when it comes to ALARP and SFAIRP the reduction measures would never be seen as good enough.


William Wilson

MSc Subsea Engineering (DL)

Tilak Suresh Kumar's picture

The risk associated, yes..! Safety issues, yes..! But we need Nuclear..!

Here I present a debate by TEDtalks..! Interestingly the shift of people want renewables compared to nuclear is impressive..!

Nuclear... yeah a cleaner option, but the waste disposal..? and construction time..? more over the dangers associated with an incident..!

One incident the world might regret..!

Whatever might be the regulations and technology..! Not with Nuclear..! 

For example: People in Kudamkulam, India are protesting against a new nuclear plant..!

The world is looking for a cleaner and a peaceful eveironment to stay..!'s picture

On May 18, after the Fukushima nuclear power station accident happened more than two months, Japanese prime minister said, once they can determine the safety measures that can be completely implement, Japan will continue to use of nuclear energy. Simultaneously, The British government consultant team also said publicly that, in the future, at least 10 years, nuclear power will be the cheapest method to achieve low carbon energy supply. In the seventh session of China nuclear power international conference, China nuclear industry association deputy secretary-general revealed that China nuclear power project examination and approval is preparing to "thaw".

 The development of world economy and energy sustained supply are inseparable. Moreover, the energy which supports GDP in developing countries is especially obvious. Except fossil energy rich countries and region, most countries in the world are faced with the problem of the energy deficiency. This means that it provides the new energy and renewable energy development opportunity. However, the main problems of new energy is the high construction cost, and compared to the solar energy and wind energy, nuclear energy construction of low cost as well as high efficiency which make it outstanding.

Recently, in Germany, studies have found that around 5 km of nuclear waste facilities, children born with childhood leukemia incidence is far higher than the reference area. Although modern medicine also can't explain the causal relationship, but there is no denying that nuclear waste lead to the environment pollution for a long time and its harmfulness to human health can't ignore.

But even if the risk possibility is small, it won't be zero and even if the safety rate is high, it also cannot be 100%. A nuclear crisis may cause immeasurable consequence, which people do not want to see. In the nuclear power development, we cannot blindly pursue benefit and construction speed, on the contrary, it is better to the maximum extent to construct the most perfect security system. From the long-term view, the nuclear leak accident in Japan warns the global nuclear power industry to more healthy and orderly development.

Fungisai N Nota's picture

 With nuclear being around for more than 50 year it can be
said to be a well research and mature source of energy. The risks involved have
been handled and dealt with over the year but if we are to look at the risk it
has to humans and the environment I believe that there is a lot more that needs
to be done just to start off with the radioactive waste that is produced during
the fission process there has not been a safer way of disposing the waste at most
they contain it and bury it into the ground hoping that it does not leak and
find itself into the ground source or back to the surface. Then we look at when
a problem does occur like it did in Japan or even Chernobyl the extent of the damage
is life-long and is still felt to this day no one can go settle in the area
with effect still being felt to this day. To this I say when it come to nuclear
towards the environment and human life it is still not safe.

Fungisai Nota BEng(Hons) MIET

t01sik12's picture

Nuclear power is an alternative power source that uses the nuclear fission of uranium to create heat and, thereby, through a heat transfer mechanism and turbines, create electricity.Nuclear power is the most scrutinized power supply in the world with recent technologies. The Controversy concerning Nuclear power is on the high side. In my own opinion, the answer to the safety of Nuclear power has no definite answer of YES or NO.Nuclear Power has to be treated with caution.

Nuclear Power has got a good side and also a bad side which means that its a 50-50 move. Most Countries use nuclear power as a primary source of Energy, eventually all countries has a need for Nuclear Power. It has the lowest rate of accidents and
produce the highest amount of energy at the lowest cost and zero carbon emission compared to other ones like coal, fossils fuels etc.People are  exposed to radiation on a daily basis, but the radiation is so minimal that there is no medical proof that radiation is responsible for health problems. There has been no medical proof that people become ill because they live near a nuclear facility.

In my recommendation, Nuclear Power is safe for human and the environment
because of how cleaner and safer it becomes.




Samuel Kanu

Msc Subsea Engineering 


faizakhatri's picture

the Whole world are shifted towards renewable energy for  sustainable energy source that reduces carbon emissions and increases energy security by decreasing dependence on imported energy sources. and nuclear power  is one of safest way to produces virtually no conventional air pollution, such as greenhouse gases and smog, in contrast to the chief viable alternative of fossil fuel and nuclear energy is safer  way to comply energy demands in future not only by processing but also worker safety as we can see in history and recent years only one accident is occur in thousands of workers so it's save accident and human having no incident/accident  because there were no indications of severe radioactive release inside the plant and even outside environment is also safe and make sustainable energy system  in future Faiza khatri M.Sc oil and gas engineering 


ZHANGYANAN's picture


Discussion Topic 2 : Is nuclear power safe for humans and the environment?

Well, actually, I do not think it is always safe. Everything has two sides, so, it always depends.

Apparently, nuclear energy has some obvious advantages which can be accepted, however, this energy might cause a quite serious threat to the survival of mankind and the surrounding environment if the nuclear power is not used properly.

In April 1984 Chernobyl nuclear power plant near Kiev in the former Soviet Union, a serious accident , result in a large number of transmitter substances leak that forced evacuation of residents within 30km range, many countries in Europe also have been slightly polluted by the nuclear. That caused a strong international repercussions. 31 people were killed, 203 people were injured and more than 135,000 people were evacuated.

According to the NEI(the Nuclear Energy Institute), most of the radionuclides which cause the environmental pollution come from the waste of nuclear power plant emissions such as the radioactive waste water, radioactive waste materials or something else. It may be approximately discharged 25t pan fuel in one million KW nuclear power plants for one year. The main ingredient of the waste fuel are small amount of unburned uranium, the production in the nuclear reaction - plutonium and other radionuclides in nuclear waste.

In addition, waste water and waste solid caused by the development of uranium tailing mines must be properly handled. It may cause the serious pollution in farmland, river and even have a serious negative impact on the natural and social environment if it not controlled well.

The event of a nuclear accident or nuclear leakage is a disastrous impact on humans and environment. People should rigorous manage the safety of nuclear and radiation, handle well the waste of radioactive nuclear and make a properly use of the nuclear energy to make sure the well development and utilisation of nuclear safety.



Bernard L. Cohen, DSc, Professor Emeritus of Physics at the University of Pittsburgh, wrote the following in his article “Risks of Nuclear Power,” published at  Apr. 24, 2012

James Lovelock, PhD, Honorary Visiting Fellow at Oxford University Green College, wrote the following in his Mar. 2005 article “Our Nuclear Lifeline,” published in Readers Digest 

Zhang Yanan 51233945 



Keqin Chen's picture


Using the sustained nuclear fission energy to generate
heat and electricity, the nuclear power has become an important energy source
of human since the first commercial nuclear power stations began to operate in
the 1950s. 

After the success of the Generation I prototypes in the
first 10 years, generally, current reactors in operation globally are
considered as Gen II (Commercial Power Reactor) systems or Gen III (Advanced
Light Water Reactors) & Gen III + (Evolutionary Designs of Gen III)
systems. And most of the Generation I prototypes has been retired recently. 

Officially launched by the Generation IV International
Forum (GIF), research into advanced Generation IV (Gen IV) reactor types was
officially started by the Generation IV International Forum (GIF) which
includes 13 countries in 2001 [1]. Four goals of this generation of reactors
were defined, i.e. Sustainability, Safety & reliability, Economics and
Proliferation Resistance and Physical Protection.

In terms of goal of safe and reliable: it is mandatory that future reactors
perform at least as well in terms of safety and reliability as current
reactors. In particular, key focus is to be placed on eliminating, as far as
possible, the need for public evacuations from areas outside nuclear sites – in
the event of an accident, whatever its cause and extent of gravity.

Gen IV reactors include six theoretical nuclear
reactor designs currently being researched. They are different from the current
popular schemes and can not expect to be available for commercial utilization
until 2030, and are listed as follow:

Sodium-Cooled Fast Reactor (SFR), Lead-Cooled Fast
Reactor (LFR), Gas-Cooled Fast Reactor (GFR), Molten Salt Reactor (MSR),
Supercritical-Water Reactor (SCWR), and Very-High-Temperature Reactor (VHTR) [2].



  • SFR (Sodium-Cooled Fast Reactor)


There are two main challenges for the SFR: One is to
manage the special metal characteristics of sodium e.g. sodium explosively
reacts with water. And the other is how to reduce the cost of reactor and
increasing the passive safety of system under transient conditions especially.


  • (Gas-cooled Fast Reactor) 


There are two main challenges for the GFR: One is the
adaptability of fuels and materials which will operate in the high temperature
of 850°C. The
other challenge is how to solve the problem of cool down the core during
depressurization events with low thermal conductivity of Helium.


  • LFR (Lead-cooled Fast Reactor)


Mainly based on the technology of Soviet naval
propulsion units, the biggest challenge of LFR is the higher melting
temperature of lead could cause the reactor inoperable, just like the disaster
caused by the leaking and solidifying of lead in former Soviet submarine K-64.

In three types of fast neutron reactors, sodium-cooled
fast reactor (SFR) is the relatively most mature technology and has the longest
operation experiences in more than 10 different countries. More efforts should
be put on reduce the cost and increase the passive safety of system under
transient conditions especially.


[1] International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Nuclear Power
Reactors in the World, Version 2012,

[2] Generation IV International Forum (GIF), Introduction
to Generation IV Nuclear Energy Systems and the International Forum,

Keqin Chen

Msc of Oil and Gas Engineering







Recently attended AMEC industry talk where in terms of brief nuclear energy description, remarkable information were provided. The speaker also referred to the recent nuclear disaster in Japan. Many students attended the speech, although I would like to mention some notes from my point of view.

First of all, as in some major disasters of the past, similarly this one led to extended investigation in order to obtain significant information. This information will be essential during future constructions and hopefully, taking the weak points into consideration hazardous conditions will be prevented. The speaker presented the failure occurred in Fukushima and explained that the only misestimated was the height of probable waves. The resultant was that high waves eventually reached the diesel generators disabling their operation. These expected to provide electricity for cooling maintenance during emergency situation, while normally ceased nuclear reactions. But when nuclear chain reactions stop the heat production lasts for a long time. For this reason, the absence of coolant circulation led to increased temperatures. Eventually, the hydrogen produced due to high and uncontrolled temperatures reacted in combination with a spark, exploding part of the plant. Thus, the event was not directly related to nuclear reactor failure.

Hence engineers created innovative solution in order to avoid such conditions where the failures are associated with absence of coolant supply. The idea is to keep tanks with coolant fluid located as high as possible. This will provide downward flow of coolant fluid, affected by natural gravity without any pumping equipment and therefore electricity needed. When fluid will have extracted the heat it will move upward as being vaporized. I think such innovations which are not extremely scientific discoveries, but these solutions can make the difference.

Justice J. Owusu's picture

Safety, in one dimension, looks at the unintended situations that lead to failure events resulting from authorised actions. Usually safety is linked to inherent hazards in the system or operation. For a nuclear plant serving its peaceful duties, the release of radioactive materials as a result of an incident has been the concern of many 

environmental activists. Looking down the memory lane (50 years plus) since the commercialization of nuclear energy (with more than 14,500 plant operating today), there has been only three significant events that resulted to radiation exposure. Considering the number of nuclear reactors in operation, the risk associated to operating 

nuclear plant is far less than the conventional power generation (using fossil fuel).

Justice J. Owusu's picture

Right from the start the latent hazard of nuclear criticality and release of harmful radiations from nuclear power plant has been strongly considered. The best way to address this issue lies in the design of the nuclear reactor and its containment. Modern nuclear power plants, generation III+ plants, have tremendously improved safety features that, to a great extent, have tackled this need. Modern reactors like GE Hitachi’s Economic Simplified Boiling Water Reactor (ESBWR), the Westinghouse AP1000 Reactor and a few others have been designed to minimize the effects of accident and prevent radiation leak from the reactor containment. Both ESBWR and AP1000 reactors employ passive safety systems which use gravity and natural convection to remove decay heat from the reactor core in the event of an incident. They do not require any human intervention or external control or operation to keep the reactor safe. Also their containments have a multiple layer protection. These measures minimize the likelihood of reactor meltdown and release of radiations, meeting the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s safety criteria

Justice J. Owusu's picture

The safety of a nuclear plant is linked with its security and nuclear proliferation. Security concern is about the non-peaceful use of nuclear power or radioactive materials purposely to cause death, harm or destruction to property or the environment. Nuclear terrorism, which includes attack on nuclear reactor, fabrication of nuclear weapon, etc. is a major threat to everyone. A lot of effort is being made by world leaders, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) INTERPOL, etc. to address this issue. In March 2012 world leaders met in Seoul, at the “2012 Nuclear Security Summit”, to discuss international measures to protect nuclear facilities and prevent radioactive materials from terrorist groups. The Seoul meeting identified eleven areas that will enhance nuclear security.

Dear Colleague,


There are around 436 [9] existing nuclear power plant in operation around the world. In my opinion, to make a fair argument, one should consider the major disaster reported by looking at the root cause of said incident either it is man-made or natural disaster caused by floods, tsunamis etc and not towards what is initial purpose was, only then, we could come to a conclusion wether nuclear power is safe for humans and the environments or not.


The latest nuclear disaster reported was the Fukushima Nuclear disaster. This disaster was and I quote:


“The TEPCO Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant accident was the result of collusion between the government, the regulators and TEPCO, and the lack of governance by said parties. They effectively betrayed the nation’s right to be safe from nuclear accidents. Therefore, we conclude that the accident was clearly “manmade.” We believe that the root causes were the organizational and regulatory systems that supported faulty rationales for decisions and actions, rather than issues relating to the competency of any specific individual.”[4]


Page 16, The official report of The Fukushima Nuclear Accident Independent Investigation Commission


This clearly shows that the disaster was caused by man-made factor [1], [2], [3], [4], [7], [8], thus, the energy itself doesn’t hold any responsibility in the disaster but rather the man who designed, operated and managed it should be blamed.


If we scrutinized the report from the Chernobyl disaster which is by far still considered as major disaster (according to The International Nuclear and Radiological Event Scale -INES [5] ), we will find once again the disaster is caused by man-made disaster.


“(5)  The accident can be said to have flowed from deficient safety culture, not only at the Chernobyl plant, but throughout the Soviet design, operating and regulatory organizations for nuclear power that existed at the time. Safety culture, fully discussed in INSAG-4 (see footnote 3), requires total dedication, which at nuclear power plants is primarily generated by the attitudes of managers of organizations involved in their development and operation. An assessment of the Chernobyl accident in this respect demonstrates that a deficit in safety cul- ture was inherent not only to the stage of operation, but also and to no lesser extent to activities at other stages in the lifetime of nuclear power plants (including design, engineering, construction, manufacture and regulation)” [6]


Page23-24, INSAG-7 The Chernobyl Accident:Updating of INSAG-1


In conclusion, nuclear power is generally safe but a lot of safety and regulation aspects should be considered into designing, operating and managing such facilities to prevent future catastrophe. Reports seldom indicates mother nature as the root cause but the man who took mother nature affects lightly in the design process causes the inevitable disaster. Therefore, nuclear power is safe for humans and the environments only if stricter safety and regulations are to be implemented to safe guard human life and the environment. In addition, better industrial relationship should be made available between operators in achieving safe operations and managements.




Acton J.M., Hibbs M, (March, 2012),  Why Fukushima was preventable, Carnegie Paper.



Independent Investigation Commission (2012), The official report of The Fukushima Nuclear Accident Independent Investigation Commission, The National Diet of Japan.


Incident and Emergency Centre (September 28, 2012), Status of the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant and related environmental condition, International Atomic Energy Agency.


Independent Investigation Commission (2012), The official report of The Fukushima Nuclear Accident Independent Investigation Commission, The National Diet of Japan.



International Atomic Energy Agency, The International Nuclear and Radiological Event Scale (INES)Information Series / Division of Public Information, 08-26941 / E.


International Nuclear Safety Advisory Group (1992), INSAG-7, The Chernobyl Accident: Updating of INSAG-1, International Atomic Energy Agency.


Investigation Committee on the Accident at Fukushima Nuclear Power Stations of Tokyo Electric Power Company (July 23, 2012), Final Report on the Accident at Fukushima Nuclear Power Stations of Tokyo Electric Power Company : Recommendation.


Mark, H., Richard J. C., Mary, N. B., (January 18, 2012), Fukushima Nuclear Disaster, CRS Report for Congress, Report No: R41694,


Nuclear Power Reactors (updated 14 May 2012), World Nuclear Association.




Aleksandr Poljakov's picture


energy is a relatively new type of the energy used by humans. Most of the
research of it was developing in 1930s, and 40s with first nuclear reactor
created in the beginning of 50s. It was picked up rapidly by many countries all
over the world, as it was a very effective way of generating electricity.

Although it received a lot of
positive reviews at the beginning, perception of the people change due to
several major disasters caused by nuclear reactors. Even though it is very
clean energy to use, that technically produces zero carbon emissions, people
are afraid of the damage nuclear disaster can cause.

though the safety for nuclear production is a big priority, everything comes
down to the simple calculations of reliability of the system. Even though, the
safety factors for the nuclear power plants are much lower, i.e. they are much
safer, the consequences of potential failure are drastic, which cause many people
and energy companies to reassess the use of nuclear energy.

Aleksandr Poljakov


Tianchi You's picture

Nuclear power generation is the most important way of the peaceful use of nuclear in the case of normal operation in our daily life, actually nuclear power plants' radiation is exaggerated by people.

Nuclear power plants' radiation  is much lower than the limited radiation .For example,in China, the national nuclear safety requirements of radiation in normal operating conditions of the surrounding residents should be less than 0.25millisieverts

.Actually, the research shows that it is much less than that level.A lot of research and survey data show that the nuclear power plant on the public health impact is far less than some health risks, such as smoking and air pollution . Therefore, the environmental safety of the nuclear power plant in the case of normal operation has been widely accepted.

According to the State Agency Web site, the core of the safety of nuclear power is to prevent the leakage of radioactive fission products in the reactor into the surrounding environment. In order to prevent the leakage of the radioactive fission products , engineering is provided with the appropriate physical barriers. Generally have three nuclear power plants safety barrier, they are the fuel element cladding, the primary pressure boundary and containment.

Before Japan's Fukushima nuclear power plant accident ,it occurred worldwide over two major nuclear accident, nuclear power plant accident at Three Mile Island and Chernobyl nuclear power plant accident. On March 28th 1979, the Three Mile Island nuclear power plant in the United States had a serious accident, because of the primary pressure boundary and containment inclusive role of radionuclide leakage into the surrounding environment is minimal, there was not  serious harm to the environment and public health, only three power station staff were slightly hurted by the radiaton exposure.  On April 26, 1986, the occurrence of the accident at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant happened in the former Soviet Union. In April 1996, more than 800 experts in 71 countries and 20 organizations held a meeting to evaluate the practical consequences of the accident at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. The evaluation results show that: only 28 people died from radiation exposure in the nuclear power plant who were the staff tried to help to deal with the consequences. More than 100,000 residents were evacuated from the contaminated area and people are still living in the less affected areas, their lives are dose similar to the dose received from natural radiation sources in their lifetime or lower.

Even though there are only a few accidents happened , but they bring alarm bell to people . They changed people 's opinion on nuclear power plant. After the Fukushima, Japanese people have made several demonstrations to ask for the government to remove the nuclear power plants from Japan and put more attention to other renewable energy. Since the nuclear energy is the most efficient forms of renewable energy, it has a significant effect on a nation's economy and people's daily lives. Before moving it ,people also need to consider that we may need to cost more on electricity and then those high-level electricity consumers may think about move their factories to other places. Then the GDP will be decresed and the policy may be changed again. In that case, it seems that nuclear energy is indispensible...


Tianchi You


Oil&Gas engineering 

Azeezat's picture

 Nuclear power is an
alternative power source that uses the nuclear fission of uranium to create
heat and thereby, through a heat transfer mechanism and turbines to create electricity.

Nuclear safety is the actions taken to prevent nuclear and
radiation accidents or to limit their consequences. This covers nuclear power
plants as well as all other nuclear facilities, the transportation of nuclear
materials, and the uses and storage of nuclear materials for medical, power,
industry and military. An important concern when designing a nuclear power
plant is the integrity of the nuclear reactor as some of the reactor plants
have exceeded its initial age.

In my opinion I don’t believe Nuclear power is safe except
that it helps to generate electricity, while its produces high levels of gamma
and beta radiation, which can mutate cells, causing cancer and birth defects. The
leakage from the Nuclear Plants i.e. toxic Tritium radiation, into Drinking
Water supplies spread diseases which is not good for the health.  

A good example of this is the Japan’s 9.0 earthquake,
Fukushima nuclear disaster, tsunami, and 5.8 magnitude earthquake in Virginia. It
has become even more urgent to revisit the safety of the aging of nuclear power
facilities. With the occurrence of this event, some of the nuclear facilities
lost their power and were forced to run on backup generators. Most of the
nuclear reactors are not equipped to withstand the magnitude of the earthquake.
Weather patterns are more extreme than ever causing stronger and more severe
tornadoes, hurricanes and floods that threaten the nuclear power facilities.
There are no guarantees that any nuclear power facility can be safe from nature’s
forces or human error except to ensure a safe and clean future renewable energy.


Michail.Sevasteiadis's picture

After nuclear fuel loses its capability to provide sufficient energy for the reaction process in a nuclear reactor, it has to be replaced with fresh one. After replacement there should be a safe place for it to be stored, like special pools designed exclusively for this purpose next to the plant or to be placed into special dry casks and transport it to disposal sites for burial when that pools are filled.

According to the Department of Energy and Climate Change, after the formation of IAEA in 1956 the regulations of nuclear waste safe transport are being reviewed periodically in order to be up to date with current science and technology achievements. This has led to the minimize of risk for an accident to happen in terms of equipment and process failure during their transportation and storage.

However, I believe that human factor is quite unpredictable and there should be continuous training for the responsible personnel. In addition, another aspect for the authorities to take into account and increase safety measures is that there is a probability for these depots to be attacked from terrorists, like happened in 2000 in Grozny nuclear waste plant.


Felipe.Santana.Lima's picture

Is nuclear power safe for humans and the environment?

It is a very difficult question to be answered as it can be seen from different perspectives. The first perspective can be derived from figure 3 of University Lecture 1 notes (28.09.2012). According to the chart, historically there has been an average of 0.04 deaths for every TWh produced from nuclear source. That figure is nothing less than 35 times lower than the second ranked source, hydroelectricity, considered one of the cleanest and safest energy sources on earth. If compared to biofuels and biomass, so much in debate nowadays and with an HSE-friendly reputation, the nuclear source is 300 less deadly. From this perspective, it is very hard to deny that nuclear is one of the safest energy sources on earth, if not the very safest.

Looking at another angle we can put the “consequences” of “effects” of nuclear disasters on the spotlight. Then the situation is quite the opposite. Whereas accidents associated with other energy sources most often cause very little environmental impacts or no effect whatsoever, nuclear disasters tend to be major environmental catastrophes.

This is, in a way, about discussing the different variables of the R = P x C equation. Which energy sources has the lowest risk (R), those that have a medium probability to fail (medium P) but when failure occurs tend to cause minor consequences (low C); or those that hardly ever fail (very low P) but when failure strikes tend to cause global catastrophes (very high C)?

Another way of looking at the question is separating humans from environment. The referred chat from University Lecture 1 tells clearly that amongst all the energy sources shown, nuclear is by far the least dangerous to the humans. At the same time, as discussed above, the consequences of nuclear accidents on the environment are typically more serious than the impacts caused by the other six energy sources.

Analysing the safety of nuclear energy, the relevant factors are P and C. But in a broader analysis, i.e. whether or not nuclear energy is more attractive than the other sources given its safety records, one needs to look at how efficient it is and how much the world depends on energy. As of today nuclear is in fact the most efficient energy source and regardless of being safe or not the world is not prepared to abandon it. So let’s accept this fact and work to make it as safe as we can.



University Lecture 1 notes (28.09.2012) 

Maxwell Otobo's picture

I think nuclear power isn't safe for humans and the environment. It is considered as a key hazard to the environment and humankind. Nuclear power generation goes along with the production of radioactivity that is hazardous to living creatures.

According to Steven Cohen (Executive director of Columbia University's Earth Institute), nuclear power is said to be dangerous, complicated and politically controversial (1).  

In the absence of accidents, there is no known solution for the safe storage of the radioactive waste produced by nuclear plants. A by-product 'Plutonium 239' has a half life of 24,100 years which means after this period of time, the intensity of radiation has reduced by only 50%. For it to be considered a safe level, its radiation should have declined to a factor of 1,000 meaning, it will take 241,000 years until it can be considered safe. How can we say its safe or guarantee that our descendants will not be exposed to this wastes for 10,000 generations? (2).

According to some others, it is considered to be safe when compared with some other sources of energy (3). However, there are a number of safety issues associated with it and these include;

  • Radiation hazard - A large release of radiation from nuclear power plants. The rate of the reaction needs to be controlled so that a melt-down will not occur and the outside environemnt will not be exposed to high levels of radioactivity.
  • Nuclear waste disposal and recycling - the extraction, concentration, transportation, disposal and storage needs to be carefully planned and carried out in order to manage the exposure of the radiactive materials used in the reactor.
  • Security of the materials should be taken into account as they could be used as nuclear weapons in some concentrated states. Already, countries with nuclear technology are considered to be 'proliferation risk' countries.


Craig Donaldson's picture

All of your concerns are correct and they do exist to varying degrees, however it is the aim of the fourth generation of nuclear power plants to substantially reduce the risks associated with the three main concerns. As far as I can see no one has yet highlighted what the fourth generation of nuclear power plants want to achieve in order to mitigate public fear and anxiety.


Fourth generation plants will be able to:


1. Produce radioactive waste with a half life of a few centuries rather than many millennia. I admit that is not the best solution as a half life under 100 years would be much more preferable. To counter this though, they will have the ability to consume some of the current nuclear waste as fuel and turn it into electricity reducing the risk posed by those very long lived nuclei. Furthermore, many of the reactors will operate in a closed cycle, ecyleing waste into a new type of fuel.

2. Use of inherent and passive safety measures which ensure that the reactor cannot have a meltdown. The Pebble Bed Modular Reactor (PBMR), now under development by the South African company Eskom has a reactor which cannot get hot enough to split open the fuel particles and thus if there is a coolant failure the reactor will shut itself off without the need for human intervention.

3. Methods for reduction of proliferation risk and improvements in physical protection are being designed into fourth generation concepts to help stop those who would target nuclear power plants for terrorist acts or use them improperly to develop materials for nuclear weapons. For example the AHWR reactor will produce less plutonium than light water reactors with the fissile proportion being less and the Pu-238 portion three times as high, which gives inherent proliferation resistance

4. Efficiency will be greatly increased thus reducing the strain on uranium reserves as well as the ability to utilise thorium as a fuel.

These will of course not remove the risks but I hope that they will bring them ALARP in most peoples eyes.




Kyle McFarlane's picture

Dr Tan raised an interesting point in that legislation comes after accidents and incidents rather than the other way round, this is complimented by Andrew Allans post about Fukishima and the design considerations overlooking the possibility of a Tsunami having the affect it did. It is also woth mentioning that following 911 nuclear power plants have to be designed to be able to withstand the impact of even the largest comerical aircraft. 

To build on this point think of all of the new legislation brought about by accidents and incidents in the oil and gas sector. Keeping in mind the relative ages of both energy sources. Although I fully admit that the outcomes of failure to contain a nuclear plant would eclipse almost any imaginable oil and gas incident.  

 There are a multitide of posts arguing in favour of conventional nuclear power facilities however there are many new projects with new technology that we will likely see coming from development into use in the next few years. 

 The focus of these for the purpose of the blog post will be "small modular reactors" these nuclear reactors are as their name suggests much smaller than conventional reactors and therefore have a much lower output. However they can be used in conjunction in order to provide power for similar areas as nuclear faciities do currently. They are housed underground and prefabricated, cable of being delieverd to site by lorry or barge.


These smaller systems offer huge advantages over their conventional ancestors, much easier to contain, less waste and with less of an effect on the enviroment. Their smaller size also allows them to used by more remote inhabitants in places such as Alaska were usually nuclear power wouldnt make financial sense. Infact there is a proposal project for the Toshiba 4s reactor in Galena Alaska. 







Kelvin Arazu's picture


Nuclear power


This is generated through the use of sustained nuclear fission of ‘'uranium'' in a reactor.


It is a good alternative source of energy to that supplied by coal, gas or oil.



Current evidence in [1] suggested that the consequence of generating nuclear power includes:


The emission of radioactive material will cause cancer in humans.


Genetic defect in children of exposed parents


Mental retardation in the children of mothers exposed during pregnancy.


To the environment, waste not properly disposed can remain radioactive contaminating the air, soil and water supplies.



Common fact holds that, the entire dose of natural background radiation accumulated over a lifetime, the risk of developing cancer as a result of this exposure is estimated to be roughly 1 in 100 [1][2][3].


The additional contribution from all man-made sources of radiation is much smaller. It should be noted that all of the long-term health effects associated with exposure to radiation can also occur in people due to other causes hence, natural radiation.


The real issue is, mitigating the effect of radiation. The nuclear reactors should be seal to air tight to forestall the emission of radioactive elements from their plants. For example this is a being practised in the USA. In addition, the generated waste should be treated and disposed properly in safe mode. For example, the UK Government is committed to sanction any nuclear power company that do not treat and dispose their effluent waste in accordance to the procurement of their operating license.


There are presently over 400 nuclear power plants in the world which provides less than 7% of the world's total energy supply. Nuclear energy contributes to the energy supply globally and thus should not be eliminated. I take a stand on the efficient utilization of nuclear power resources to generate energy in a safe and controlled method because modern nuclear technologies have multi-layered safety systems in place that offer a huge improvement to humans and their environment.




[1] US Nuclear Regulatory Commission at (accessed November 13, 2012).


[2] (accessed November 13, 2012)


[3] (accessed November 13, 2012)



Aleksandr Poljakov's picture

want to mention one more time that the main reasons for changing health and
safety regulations are accidents in the nuclear industry. Safety factors,
legislations and systems change, and the overall standards of H&S increase,
as companies, governments and people generally desire nuclear systems to be
more safe, due to the consequences of the accidents.

believe that every time the H&S legislation change, as low as reasonably
practice limit decreases, so the cost for combatting the risk is increased, as
well as the cut off line for the ALARP risks. Again, this is due to many firms
being able to pay more for combatting the risk, rather than dealing with
accident consequences. For example, latest radioactive leak into the ground
water from Vermont nuclear power plant (USA) cost over 700 million USD; it was
also the reason for the government to spend more money on the plant inspection
and control of the nuclear reactors and the maintenance of the underground

Aleksandr Poljakov's picture

want to mention one more time that the main reasons for changing health and
safety regulations are accidents in the nuclear industry. Safety factors,
legislations and systems change, and the overall standards of H&S increase,
as companies, governments and people generally desire nuclear systems to be
more safe, due to the consequences of the accidents.

believe that every time the H&S legislation change, as low as reasonably
practice limit decreases, so the cost for combatting the risk is increased, as
well as the cut off line for the ALARP risks. Again, this is due to many firms
being able to pay more for combatting the risk, rather than dealing with
accident consequences. For example, latest radioactive leak into the ground
water from Vermont nuclear power plant (USA) cost over 700 million USD; it was
also the reason for the government to spend more money on the plant inspection
and control of the nuclear reactors and the maintenance of the underground

Nuclear energy is one of the most
important discoveries institutionalised by human. The spontaneous energy generated
by nuclear energy is derived from the radioactive decay or fusion of photon and
neutrons (radioactive element).

 This energy source is an exothermic reaction
that releases a large amount of energy inform of electromagnetic and kinetic
energy [1]. Major concern about this category of energy is more driven towards
the waste produced, disposal method (transmutation and deep burial) and the
political abuse of such power driven energy.

The United State nuclear waste
policy act of 1982 explains the full process that must be undertaken before
radioactive waste is disposed. The classification of low level and high waste
material (section 2 of Nuclear Waste Policy Act of 1982) explains further that
radioactive waste material must not be disposed (buried) unless the radioactive
elements are totally decayed with time [2].

The Environmental Protection Agency
(EPA) state on their website that ‘’  An
operating nuclear power plant produces very small amounts of radioactive gases
and liquids, as well as small amount of direct radiation. An average radiation
dose of 0.01 millirem per year will be received by a person staying 50 miles of
a nuclear power plant’’ [3]. The EPA statement elaborates more on the human
medical safety, especially on the radioactive effect on human health (cancer

The proposed safety culture
policy statement (SECY-12-0008) for the nuclear plant operators has implemented
plans to sensitise and educate the public on the activities of nuclear power
plants [4]. With such development, the public will be able to appreciate the
efficacy of nuclear energy produced and gradually eliminate the extreme fears
created due to health and political issues.

With the safety policies and
regulations put in place for human health purposes, I strongly believe that
Nuclear power is a brilliant source of energy that should be used, effectively
monitored   and developed with a sole aim
of improving the citizen’s livelihood.




2. Nuclear Waste Policy Act of
Stat.2201; page 441. Accessed on 29/09/12.

Frequently asked questions (FAQ) about radiation protection.  Accessed on 29/09/2012.

4. Implementation plan for the safety
culture policy statement; 19/01/12.
Accessed on 29/09/2012.

farman oladi's picture

Although in comparison with other technologies in the industrial scale, nuclear power can be the safest energy for human and the environment but current regulations, are based on the known risks. Many risks were realized after accidents. Still there are risks involved in nuclear energy that we are not aware of them (there are unknown unknowns), for instance, the Fukushima power plant was built in high level of safety (even for earthquake) and no one expected this incident but it happened.Only 3 major incidents have been experienced (Chernobyl, Three Mile Island and Fukushima) but the main concern of the society is that if something goes wrong, the consequences are not acceptable and foreseen. Radioactive substances from these incidents will have their effect on human body and other creatures and agriculture, which will cause cancer and other biological effect.

Nuclear wastes are a potential treat which should be disposed safely in deep ground for thousands of years. However developed countries do not take the risk to dispose them in their own countries. 

SanjayVyas's picture

Support to Nuclear

Nuclear energy is a cheap and clean source of power that
neither uses fossil fuels nor cause greenhouse gas emissions. With regards to
safety nuclear power has far better safety records compared with coal and oil
fired electric generation.

The key hazard associated with nuclear energy is release of
radioactive material leading to loss of life, health hazards and contamination
of environment.

The three significant accidents in the history Three Mile
Island (1979 USA), Chernobyl (1986- USSR/Ukraine), and Fukushima (2011-Japan)
were three accidents in last 50 years of nuclear power generation. Chernobyl nuclear
accident was the most server nuclear energy related accident leading to 31 loss
of life, health hazards and significant contamination of environment. And apart
from Chernobyl, there was no loss of life due to radioactive exposure resulting
from the above three accidents.

Strict National and International HSE legislations supported
with defence-in depth approach for Prevention, comprehensive monitoring and
actions to mitigate consequence of failure are applied to ensure safety of
modern nuclear plants.

The greatest challenge associated with nuclear energy is
radioactive waste disposal, yet countries like Japan and Russia have begun fuel
recycling projects to overcome the problem of long term/short term disposal of
nuclear wastes.

Oghenekevwe Ovbije's picture

After reading the previous posts on this blog, I would like to add that the power generated from nuclear has a low carbon footprint compared to conventional fossil fuel. However, there are concerns about the safety of nuclear reactors, radioactive materials and the waste produced to humans and the environment; such as [1][2][3]:

•Spent nuclear fuel rods – radioactive materials can be released during transportation to storage facilities and if not properly disposed, it can contaminate water supplies.
•Meltdown of the core that can lead to molten explosion.
•Disposal of radioactive waste that do not degrade to safe levels for thousands of years [4].
•The making of weapons from nuclear technology.

Despite these issues, one must commend the nuclear industry that has in over 15,000 cumulative reactor years of existence had only three major accidents:

S/N    Accident                   Location          Year
 1   Three-mile island     United States       1979
 2    Chernobyl                   Ukraine           1986
 3    Fukushima                 Japan              2010

Safety mechanisms like containment of the released radioactive materials and cooling of the core must be put in place.

[1] Nuclear Power Education - Safety of Nuclear Power Plants Available at: Accessed 10/5/2012, 2012.
[2] Nuclear Power Safety Concerns - Council on Foreign Relations Available at: Accessed 10/7/2012, 2012.
[3] Is nuclear power safe? | How It Works Magazine Available at: Accessed 09/30/2012, 2012.
(4) Nuclear Energy Issues Available at: Accessed 10/7/2012, 2012.

ikenna_ekekwe's picture

Yeah Kevwe, your post is very interesting. However, I would like to make a comment on your concern about "spent nuclear rods".

Right now, a new technology called pyroprocessing is being developed and tested at the US energy department's Argonne National Laboratory. This technology involves re-using the spent fuel rods by chopping them in small pieces to convert them back into metals which are then placed in electrorefiners which aid in separating useful nuclear material from the spent fuel.

The scientists developing this new technology believe that it should be able to take strip all toxic material from the nuclear rods which could present any harm if improperly disposed even though the waste material must still be put in permanent storage. 

Oghenekevwe Ovbije's picture

From research, this process will enhance the production of nuclear power; used radioactive fuel rods are recycled for use which eventually reduces the waste products from the nuclear reactors [1].

However, there are certain reservations with reprocessing used radioactive fuel rods. Much as the wasted fuel rod is reduced, this process does not completely eliminate the radioactivity of the material and due to the contamination with rare earth elements in the transuranic element group during pyroprocessing, the regeneration of used fuel rod should be limited [2]

Despite the commercial benefits associated with pyroprocessing, the remaining waste will still pose a major risk to our environment.


[1] Processing of Used Nuclear Fuel Available at: Accessed 12/5/2012, 2012.
[2] Jae-Hyung Y, Chung-Seok S, Eung-Ho K. A Conceptual Study of Pyroprocessing for Recovering Actinides from Spent Oxide Fuels. 2008:581-583.

I have read a lot of the posts on this topic and I understand that:

nuclear energy accidents have the lowest fatality rates relative to alternative energy sources However, the public perception of nuclear energy is still somewhat negative. By public, I mean the general population that have not taken time out to do research on this subject matter. As part of my research, i took this questions  "Do you consider nuclear energy to be a safe energy source for the future" to 10 people and I got some interesting views. Most of them considered it as unsafe and provided the following reason:

They felt that it was risky. By risky, i gathered they were of the opinion that while the probability of accidents getting out of control may be low due, The severity and impact in the cases where they do are extremely high. This is a view I came to share also. Yes there are numerous and thorough safety measures in place, In a situation where these measures are compromised, the impact of accidents could be too catastrophic and potentially disastrous. 

Furthermore, they raised the the concernthat future dependence on nuclear energy would provide limitless availability of these potentially disastrous nuclear materials to terrorist. I also acknowledge this concern and somewhat share the same view.


personally drafted questionnaire.  

Joan.C.Isichei's picture

Most of the posts above seem to support the fact that Nuclear power is one of the safest means of generating energy. This may be the case if one looks at the table in Derek Porter’s post and this table of serious nuclear accidents since 1952[1].

However, I’ll like to add that no matter how safe a system has been declared, the issue of not being able to fully eliminate risk is a problem. This, coupled with the fact that a system can never be fully tested till it has been subjected to an unforeseen, highly catastrophic event such as the tsunami that led to the fukushima accident. Now, though there have been zero deaths reported  from the Fukushima Nuclear disaster of present, but the long term effects of radioactive leakage from the incident is yet to be registered as there may be cancer related deaths in the future, like those reported in the Chernobyl nuclear accident. Based on this, I’ll conclude that the issue of Nuclear energy being safe is one which is subjective.



As being said by others, the technology itself should be refined in order to make it safer. In my opinion, we should move to artificial intelligence technology that could predict disaster and recommend initial measures. 


Several technologies from other industry could be utilized. For instance, Flowserve Valvesight gives us the health of each control valves and preventive measure could be mitigate earlier before failing. Such technologies could be extrapolate for better plant management. Emerson also have wireless technology that overall will improve plant management. The only down side is all this technologies are expensive and such condition might prevent broad application of such beneficial technologies in the end impact on safety issue.




Kelvin Osaro's picture

Nuclear power is considered to be a safe technology in that; they generate power without any air pollution on the environment [1]. But the risk and impact of its design in the case of a catastrophic accident can affect thousands or even millions of people which could lead to human, environmental and economic consequences [2]. Therefore, regulatory bodies should ensure that proper safety regulations or regimes are taking into account in the design and during operations to reduce the high risks to as low as reasonably practicable (ALARP). To reduce the risks, a proper balance between risk and cost should be analyzed to ensure the safety and also enhancing the use of safety factors in the design and operations of Nuclear power plants [3].
More so, there are other concerns that are needed to be considered to ensure the safety of Nuclear power these include: human and mechanical errors, the ageing of technologies, terrorist attacks and natural disasters. All these possible effects need to be accessed in the safety legislation to ensure minimal risk on the environment in order to avoid the major accidents such as the Fukushima, Chernobyl and Three Mile Island accident that brought about lots of concern in the Nuclear power industry [3].




Kelvin Osaro's picture

With the rapid research and development of fusion power technologies, this has the safety advantages over the current fission methods. But, only a small amount of fuel can be used at anytime and requires an accurately controlled measure to generate any net energy. Furthermore, the fuel itself is considered to be very safe at any temperature outside that of a working fusion reactor and just a small quantity is used. However, if the reactors were to be damaged or the fuel supply stops, or control impaired, the reactions and heat generation would stop immediately. Fusion reaction processes are so delicate that safety measures are inherent and no elaborate failsafe methods are essential.

In other words, fusion reactions have no risk of thermal runaway or nuclear meltdown because any significant change could render the reactions to be unable to generate excess heat. However, in the current fission reactor it requires loading enough fuels for one or several years in a suitably small space that will generate thermal runaway or meltdown, and hence, requiring no addition fuel in keeping the reaction going. In the event of fire, calculations recommend the total quantity of radioactive gases in a fusion plant to be small as1kg, as they would have diluted to legally acceptable limits by the time they blew as far as the plant's protective fence.

So, with this new fusion technology in Nuclear power generation, it will help to create less radioactive materials which are less damaging biologically and within time period that is in existing engineering capability [1].




 A Nuclear power plant which is under operation will produces radioactive gases, liquids and also direct radiation. According to US Nuclear Regulatory Commision, 0.01 milirem per year dose of radiation is recieved by a person living 50 miles from a nuclear plant.  

 Radiation can cause cancer in humans, it can also cause adverse health effects like genetic defects and mental retardation in the children of exposed  parents

 A nuclear reactor has the potential to destroy the region at which it is operating. The capacity of the plant depand on the radioactive fuel rod. It should be cooled always. Else melting down will occur which will lead mass destruction. So the regions select for the nulear power plant should be a safe one. Because any natural disaster can cause big problems. Any Accident in a nuclear power plant will create high risk of release of radioactive material.



ROHIT NAIR's picture

Every form of energy generation has some or the other advantages or
disadvantages. If implemented efficiently, then I would say that nuclear energy
is the cleanest form of energy since it generates no pollution or emission
unlike thermal power plants, which are responsible for increased CO2 emission
that leads to global warming. I would like to state the following advantages of
nuclear power that cannot be ignored:

28gm of uranium can produce the
amount of energy that 100metric tonnes of coal produce so it is highly

The cost per KWhr for energy
produced is the lowest for nuclear power

They are very reliable source
of energy with a life span of about 50 years

The quantity of waste produced
is also very less

And there are many more. So I think in the current scenario where
there is huge demand for energy across the world, nuclear power is here to stay
unless a better and efficient form of energy generation is not discovered. If
the nuclear waste management is done efficiently and the nuclear reactors are
built with the highest safety standards then I think it is one of the safest forms
of energy.

Rohit C Nair
Subsea Engineering
Student id- 51231896

Liu Yishan's picture

I really cannot agree that nuclear power is safe. The supporters said nuclear power is safer than oil, gas and coal as they killed more people than nuclear plants. Indeed, we can hear about a lot of accidents happened in fossil fuel industries. However, the reason is there are more oil and gas wells, coal mines than nuclear plants. The more matters we did, the more mistakes we made. Thus, the number of fatalities does not mean nuclear power is safe. Actually, the radioactive materials could be harmful to human beings in long term. We all know that the nuclear accident happened in Japan is tragic. The nuclear industry must learn from it. As when things go wrong at a nuclear power plant, they can go wrong on a massive scale.

haroon latif's picture

Liu, I respectfully disagree with your comment. I understand your argument that other industries have had more fatalities than nuclear energy because there is more workers in the Oil and Gas industry for example. But nuclear energy is as safe as any other energy technology, and with fossil fuel energy sources diminishing and renewable not yet ready to meet global demands, nuclear energy definitely has a role to play within the future energy mix and has the potential to become the dominate source of energy supply.  

The Fukushima accident has definitely damaged nuclear energy’s legacy and reputation, but as with the Chernobyl disaster in 1986, engineers and physicists will learn the lessons from the tragic accidents, and with time will improve the overall standard of the next generation of nuclear power stations. France is a country that generates over 40% of its energy needs from nuclear energy, and has not had a major accident, with numerous fatalities at their plants.

Haroon Latif
MSc Oil and Gas Engineering

ROHIT NAIR's picture

Liu, I understand your doubts and apprehensions about nuclear energy
and the potential risk they possess. But the point to be noted here is that the
level of safety or the SIL level for nuclear power plant equipment is SIL4 that
is the highest level of safety and it is designed and managed with the highest
level of care. The personnel working in this plan is highly trained and during
emergency can act accordingly. Extensive risk estimation is carried out before
the site for a nuclear plant is selected and thus I would like to end by saying
that nuclear power is one of the safest forms of energy available. The
developments in nuclear fusion as a source of energy is also being evaluated

Rohit C Nair
Subsea Engineering
Student id- 51231896

Thomas James Smith's picture

Liu, I have to agree, the issue is around the scale of the disasters if and when they happen.  The contamination caused by the Chernobyl disaster affected not just local communities but also affected us here in the UK.  The food standards agency still has a radioactive contamination control in place for upland sheep farmers in the UK as a result of the Chernobyl disaster 25 years ago.  No other industry or power source would have had the same far-reaching effect, and require the same control measures to prevent contaminated food sources being consumed.  

Although it appears a quick fix to our ever-increasing power requirements, I’m with you. Nuclear power is not the answer.

Ernest Appiah's picture

Nuclear power is clean, environmental friendly and safe source of power supply.
The only problem is the nuclear fuel waste and exposure to radiations from the core of the reactors.
 There has been a lot of misunderstanding on how dangerous radiation is since most people do not know that they are exposed to minimal levels of radiation daily with no proven health sickness or associated death.

 Most of the fear of nuclear energy comes from the propaganda of the media and environmentalists who constantly preach about a total meltdown and mass destruction of communities in the area of these reactors.
 There are only two cases of nuclear accidents in the world and the amount of radiation released by one of these accidents was no more than what could naturally be found and absorbed.
The waste from the reactors are properly being treated and stored.
 In general, from all other power supply facilities, nuclear power is the safest.

haroon latif's picture

I agree Ernest, nuclear energy has been given a ‘bad’ name tag by the media and environmentalists, who are dedicated to eradicating nuclear energy, and back energy technologies such as renewable and biofuels - which are not economically feasible or sustainable. Biofuels for example have to be grown, and raises the argument of food vs. fuel which has been debated in a separate blog on imechanica.   

I suppose it is down to safety engineers such ourselves to raise the ‘safe’ profile of nuclear energy, when it is clearly the energy source for the future alongside renewable energy. It has the potential, in nuclear fusion power to be a source of energy that is cheap, safe and sustainable. And also the fuel material for fusion power, deuterium, is in abundant supply as it is found in seawater.

Haroon Latif
MSc Oil and Gas Engineering

AndrewRCarss's picture

Hi Haroon,

You have made a couple of good points there.

I agree with both you and Ernest that nuclear energy has been given such a bad name by modern press hysteria that is ever so prevalent in the UK. It seems that the media and most of the campaigners against nuclear need to be educated on its benefits. The same applies to other energy sources that they know little about..fraking for instance.

I am certain that in the UK, nuclear energy is the way forward. I believe that the government will use natural gas to get us through the interim period before starting a programme of nuclear power station programme.

However, there are certain elements that concern me.

Sellafield has been mentioned a couple of times in this forum. Sellafield is a nuclear waste dump. It is made up of huge bomb proof warehouses, where nuclear waste is imported from around the world to be stored underground where it is left to reach its half life. The amount of waste that is produced from the power stations and the fact it is being imported by the UK is a worry.

My second concern is that if nuclear energy is the way forward, it does not seem fair that only the Western countries with the capability are allowed to benefit from it. I cannot see a nuclear plant being built in Kenya for instance. So how are we to meet the energy needs of the developing world if nuclear is the way forward?

I guess the answer is, we will need to wait and see.

Andrew Carss - MSc Subsea Engineering (DL)


Nuclear power can be described as harnessing energy from controlled fusion or fission reactions to generate power. Nuclear energy has been safely harnessed but the reliability of the process and the impact of it’s by product to the environment has been the concerns. Looking at the nuclear accidents that have occurred in the history, over a period of 100 years we can see that the AFR is just 0.68. This is a far lower figure when compared to other industries like the Aerospace or oil & gas industry. the nuclear power industry is a sustainable safe industry which also can help maintain our planet ecosystem by helping reduce the carbon footprint gotten from energy generation. However, the challenges if its accidental impact can be devastating but if properly handled nuclear energy is safe for humans.

Uhunoma Osaigbovo

Subsea Engineering D/L

Thomas James Smith's picture

If someone is hit by a bus and killed it is very easy to say ’the bus killed him!’ with nuclear power it isn’t that easy.. Unless someone was killed at the moment of the disaster it is hard to quantify the overall deaths caused by nuclear power plants while operating or when there have been disasters.  The population that lives around Dounreay in the North of Scotland have a higher than usual number of people suffering from oesophagus and stomach cancer and Childhood leukaemia is also very high in the areas around Sellafield.  Is this due to the nuclear power plants??   Nuclear power is looked at as a quick fix for or energy problems, charging forward with more nuclear power stations without fully understanding the potential risks to the environment and to the population is probably one of the most irresponsible things that we could do.

Hani Shobaki's picture

I agree with Thomas that while it is possible to detect correlations of increased sickness and disease in areas subjected to nuclear leaks, it is not possible to conclude a direct causation. The two decades of leaking radioactive material in the Dounreay area will have a permenant effect within the region and the world. ROV's have been attempting to recover the radioactive particles, but it would seem that the scope of the spill is indefinable. The Scottish Environment Protection Agency is no longer even considering cleaning the area up, it simply isn't possible. So while the safety statistics, mentioned above, may show nuclear energy to be vastly safer than coal and oil, it is not possible to define what safe is. If radioactive materials have half-life defined in hundreds of thousands of years, how can we measure the impact that even a minute amount of leakage will have?



Edwards, R. Scottish nuclear fuel leak 'will never be completely cleaned up'. The Guardian. 21 Sep 2011.

Mehran Vakil's picture

Nowadays, increasing in the number of world’s population, draws global attention to supply sufficient energy as well as meets the people demands. However these challenges are also accompanied by enormous concerns such as environmental and humanity impacts and their consequences. Pursuant to these supply and demands, there are various producing energy method have been introduced during previous decades. Nuclear power can be exemplified as a main source of energy, particularly electricity generation. [1]

Figure 1: illustrate world electricity generation by source of energy for the U308 crop website [2]
Albeit it has its own advocates, there are myriad opponents who oppose utilizing nuclear power due to its disadvantages.
Undoubtedly, one of the most significant drawbacks of nuclear power usage is its waste disposal. These wastes are categorized to high level, medium level as well as low level, according to emission of radioactive materials. Taking no account to each category and their magnitude, it is worth understanding that after several years they have not been lost their influence and cause many negative aspects such as chromosome aberration and leukemia. This contributing factor emerges an important issue about storage of nuclear waste. Burying beneath the earth, storage in special container on the surface, even though launching them to the other planet are some debatable ideas among the scientists.
On the other hand, the probability of proliferation and also military threats due to producing nuclear weapon is the other remaining subjects. Remember the 6th of august 1945, the destruction of Hiroshima and Nagazaki. Approximately 200.000 Japanese people died. Nonetheless, the survivors suffered from explosion.[3]
My recommendation is change our attitude toward the conventional fuels and also those that have environmental impact. Developing and expanding the renewable source of energy, particularly the green ones, and also introducing them among the people may assist in decreasing the amount of pollutants. However, taking into account that utilizing nuclear energy is inevitably today,technically we have to endeavour to keep on the process more efficiently with less by product and wastes.


   [1].ASSOCIATION, W. N. 2011. Nuclear Energy [Online]. Available: [Accessed 22/11 2012].
   [2].U308CORP. 2012. World electricity generation [Online]. Available: [Accessed 22/11 2012].
   [3].BBC. 2005. Warning on Nuclear [Online]. Available: [Accessed 22/11 2012].

amir masoud bayat's picture

Currently, the interest in nuclear power has increased by
increasing energy demands in developing nations as well as the need to reduce
use of fossil fuels in response to climate change. However it has some negative
impact on human and environment. I would like to elaborate on this issue by
discussing some contributing factorss

Meltdowns and Accidents: such as Fukushima incident and Chernobyl explosion which
have irrecoverable harms in some countries.

Nuclear Waste: Short-
term and long-term storage of spent nuclear fuel has been a challenge for the
industry and countries. Such as radioactive element which has detrimental effects
on environment and human life.

Natural Disasters: The
earthquake and tsunami that damaged the Fukushima plant has some questioning
the sensibility of locating plants

All of all, what I would like to stress is that although
concerns about nuclear safety are high, its advantages outweigh its



Andrew Strachan's picture

According to two studies carried out, the fatality rate for the Nuclear industry is generally no worse than other competing forms of energy generation and is significantly lower than some when measured in fatalities per GWy [1].

Two human perceptions hold back the nuclear industr:
1) the amount of waste caused by producing nuclear power which requires long term storage - this has it's own serious safety implications however the quantities are not actually as vast as one might suppose.

2) The threat of repeating another Chernobyl scale disaster - Lessons have been learnt and plants are designed differently today with more inherent safety features.

[1] Sustainable Energy - Without The Hot Air, David JC MacKay, 2009

Omololu Oyebola's picture

My answer is an emphatic ‘yes.' Radiation is
part of our natural environment and we can leave with it. We are all exposed to
radiation from rocks and the soil (Readers Digest, March 2005).Presently, Mother
earth is in trouble, every time we click a light switch or start a car,
something sinister happens. From power stations chimneys and car tail-pipes,
immense release of greenhouse gases (carbon dioxide) are pumped into the sky
polluting the environment causing overheating. This overheating is nearing its
threshold and which could cause climate change. The benefit of using Nuclear
energy is overwhelming and it is safe, clean and effective. France for example
generate 78% of it power through Nuclear reactors, thus reducing CO
2 pollution by 90%. 


Readers Digest, March 2005 

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