Nuclear safety and security

Regulations for uses of radioactive materials / From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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Nuclear safety is defined by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) as "The achievement of proper operating conditions, prevention of accidents or mitigation of accident consequences, resulting in protection of workers, the public and the environment from undue radiation hazards". The IAEA defines nuclear security as "The prevention and detection of and response to, theft, sabotage, unauthorized access, illegal transfer or other malicious acts involving nuclear materials, other radioactive substances or their associated facilities".[1]

TMI_cleanup-2.jpg
A clean-up crew working to remove radioactive contamination after the Three Mile Island accident.

This covers nuclear power plants and all other nuclear facilities, the transportation of nuclear materials, and the use and storage of nuclear materials for medical, power, industry, and military uses.

The nuclear power industry has improved the safety and performance of reactors, and has proposed new and safer reactor designs. However, a perfect safety cannot be guaranteed. Potential sources of problems include human errors and external events that have a greater impact than anticipated: the designers of reactors at Fukushima in Japan did not anticipate that a tsunami generated by an earthquake would disable the backup systems which were supposed to stabilize the reactor after the earthquake.[2][3][4][5] Catastrophic scenarios involving terrorist attacks, war, insider sabotage, and cyberattacks are also conceivable.

Nuclear weapon safety, as well as the safety of military research involving nuclear materials, is generally handled by agencies different from those that oversee civilian safety, for various reasons, including secrecy. There are ongoing concerns about terrorist groups acquiring nuclear bomb-making material.[6]

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