Nuclear Accidents: Lessons Learned (Dr. Brian Sheron)

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Uploaded on 05/09/2017

Nuclear Accidents: Lessons Learned from Three Mile Island, Chernobyl, and Fukushima. Presented by Dr. Brian Sheron, Director (Retired) Office of Nuclear Regulatory Research

In this talk, Dr. Sheron provides a brief description of the three reactors (Three Mile Island, Chernobyl, and Fukushima), and what caused each accident, along with a brief description of the consequences. He concludes with a discussion of a recent analytical study done by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission that estimates the consequences of a core melt accident at a U.S. nuclear plant, if one were to occur today.

Brian W. Sheron recently retired, after over 42 years of Federal service, as the Director of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s Office of Nuclear Regulatory Research. He was appointed to that position on May 1st, 2006.

Prior to his appointment, Dr. Sheron held numerous technical management positions at the NRC in both the research and regulatory areas. He is the author of over 22 papers on various subjects pertaining to commercial nuclear power safety. He recently served as Chairman of the Committee for the Safety of Nuclear Installations (CSNI).

Dr. Sheron received a B.S. degree in Electrical Engineering from Duke University in 1969 and Masters and Doctorate degrees in 1971 and 1975 respectively from The Catholic University of America under a full scholarship from the Atomic Energy Commission.

Dr. Sheron was actively involved with the U.S. Government’s response to the accident at the Three Mile Island Unit Two nuclear plant in March of 1979, the accident at Chernobyl in 1986, and most recently the accident at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plants in Japan in 2011.

Views expressed in this video are those of the speaker and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Capital Area Skeptics.

Comments (1):

By jhallenworld    2019-06-05

I've watched this interesting (but long) talk by Brian Sheron, retired director of Nuclear Regulatory Research:

It gives me a better understanding of the risk of nuclear power, particularly for current US reactors, and what our regulatory agencies actually focus on: really it's on preventing direct radiation induced deaths, and not so much on property damage. So: It's not so much that accidents directly kill people, instead they kill the land. The idea is that loss of cooling incidents are contained for a significant amount of time- at least 8 hours. I'm dubious, but this is thought to be enough time to evacuate people from the land that will eventually become contaminated. Only when people move back do people die, and then only from increased cancer risk (Brian says this becomes an EPA problem). So now the land is lost, because who would move back? [of course this focuses only on deaths from radiation, and not for example, deaths caused by stress to elderly people forcibly relocated].

I did not remember when people were evacuated after the Fukushima accident, but it was pretty quick, here is a timeline:

There is another question I'm still trying to answer. If the final heat sink is lost (someone blows up a dam), can the reactor be shut down without incident, assuming no blackout? This would require that the decay heat is spread across a large enough surface area. I'm not sure if the containment building provides such an area (a 1000 MW reactor generates ~70 MW decay heat after shutdown). It reminds me that this is another area that NRC does not focus on: "terrorist attacks are a military problem".

Edit: well I answered my own question from wikipedia entry on containment building: "While the containment plays a critical role in the most severe nuclear reactor accidents, it is only designed to contain or condense steam in the short term (for large break accidents) and long term heat removal still must be provided by other systems." So if the heat sink is a man-made lake held by dam, it's a big risk (of course dam loss would cause direct loss of life anyway). I was wondering about this because my inlaws live near Duke Energy's Oconee Nuclear Station, on man made Lake Keowee

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