Over the past few years, nuclear power has played an important in providing energy used in the development, in fighting climate change and in improving energy security. For the future growth of nuclear power, emphasis on its safety must be considered and it should be a priority. Following the nuclear power station in EPCO’s Fukushima Daiichi, a lot of focus has been put in strengthening nuclear safety. Nuclear power is an essential energy-mix in the world and with such an innovative type of energy, aids in offering us a future sustainable development with the fused and closed nuclear fuel cycle have opened horizon levels that are new to humanity.

Measures such as the promotion of the use of nuclear power in ways that are peaceful and with the provision of a regime that is non-proliferation. Various effective ways of ensuring the safety of nuclear power plants all around the world and this have made us see the future of nuclear plant with optimism and confidence. In the coming decades, nuclear power is anticipated to make a growing and significant contribution to developments that are sustainable.

With International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), it has been ensuring that the nuclear power expansion is taking place in a manner which offers optimum efficiency, reliability and safety. It also safeguards nuclear weapon proliferation. The main focus of IAEA is to provide operating conditions that are proper, accidents prevention and mitigation of the consequences of accidents and this has resulted in the protection of the environment, the public and the workers from radiation hazards.

Major regulatory changes and improvements have been implemented to ensure nuclear plants are safely operated and these changes include:

  • Ensuring that there are two or more residential inspectors operating in each plant station.
  • Preparation of emergency expansion and this is done through staffing of the nuclear reactor centers 24/7
  • Recognizing the critical role of human performance on plant safety.
  • Increasing publication, analysis and identification of the information of the performance of the plant. 
  • Increasing the usage of risk insights as a mean of focusing resources to areas that show a great need.

What are some of the nuclear safety trends?

Over the past few decades, nuclear plants have been seen to improve the safety of their operation and this can be evidenced by for more than 20 years where the average reactor vent in each year has continued to remain at zero. Generally speaking, problems in nuclear plants have decreased and there has been a rapid increase in the safety of nuclear plants. Some of the tools that have been used in increasing safety are as follows.

Accident precursors analysis

There are various events that occur in a nuclear plant station some of which do not result in any significant impact but with NRC, each event that takes place in a nuclear plant station is analyzed to check if it could have resulted in an accident that might have damaged the reactor core.  Each precursor event is assigned a number according to the chances of it leading to an accident. The frequency of such events has reduced by reducing any risk that may be involved as a result of the improvements made to ensure that such events do not occur again.

Significant events

This involves the degradation of safety equipment’s, shutdown of reactors with complications suddenly or sudden degradation of pressure or fuel boundaries as a result of the unexpected sudden response.  The NRC staff does this by identifying significant events via detailed evaluation and screening of the operation experience. Over the years, the number of significant events in each nuclear plant station has drastically decreased as a result of the safety measures that have been put into place.

Automatic scrams while critical

A reactor is said to be critical when it is seen that its core is undergoing a chain reaction that is self-sustaining. After a manual or an automatic signal, a scram rapidly shuts down the reactor through the insertion of control rods. The number of unplanned automatic scrams are measured by this indicator when the reactor was critical. With safety improvement in the operation of nuclear plants, the number of scrams has been reduced.

Safety systems actuations

Safety system actuations happens when an automatic or manual signal begins an emergency power system or an emergency cooling system of the core. These systems work by removing heat from the reactor when there is a failure in the normal system or when an emergency electrical power is provided when the normal system fails.

The most complex and sophisticated energy system that has been designed as of now is the nuclear power plants. Although this may be a complex system that is well engineered and designed, it is not failure proof. There are various accidents that are involved with nuclear plants and hence there are ways that have been devised as a way of reducing and prevention of accidents associated with nuclear plants. Although perfect safety may not be a guarantee, various safety measures have been put into place.