The recent tragic earthquake in Japan has focused attention once again on the safety risks of nuclear power. However, it can be hard to tell from the news coverage exactly what is going on and what are the real associated risks. Were the plants in Japan designed to withstand earthquakes and tsunamis as strong as the ones that struck on Friday? Should they have been?
Join nuclear specialists and members of the MIT Energy Club for a roundtable discussion of the nuclear situation in Japan and some of its potential implications.
See below for suggested background readings.
A light dinner will be served.
What exactly is happening with the nuclear reactors affected by the recent Japanese earthquake? What are the technical systems involved? What are the associated economic and health risks?
What kind of hazards are nuclear power plants designed to withstand? Do the problems in Japan reflect a failure of the safety systems, or are plants simply not designed to withstand a magnitude 8.9 earthquake less than 100 miles away? Do these regulations vary from country to country?
What might be some implications of this tragedy for the nuclear industry here in the United States and around the world?
Crisis Underscores Fears About Safety of Nuclear Energy (NY Times, 12 Mar 2011)
Fact Sheet from the American Nuclear Society
Analysis from the American Nuclear Society
A Detailed Summary for Laymen from The Energy Collective
Recently updated information from the World Nuclear Association about Nuclear Power Plants and Earthquakes
US Nuclear Regulatory Commission's description of how nuclear plants are designed to withstand terrorist attacks
Changes made to the design regulations of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission in response to the September 11 terrorist attacks