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Pandemic brings a danger that is unique to the nuclear industry

Coronovirus pandemic could cripple the nuclear industry, Online Opinion, By Noel Wauchope Thursday, 26 March 2020        Nuclear power facilities have this one problem that is unique to the nuclear industry, and that is, the need for exceptional security. No other industry has these risks of radioactive accident and special vulnerability to terrorism. 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 material, other radioactive substances or their associated facilities.
Nuclear power facilities have this one problem that is unique to the nuclear industry, and that is, the need for exceptional security. No other industry has these risks of radioactive accident and special vulnerability to terrorism. The IAEA defines nuclear security as:

According to Mycle Schneider, in the World Nuclear Status Report , reactor safety depends above all on a:

…’culture of security’, including the quality of maintenance and training, the competence of the operator and the workforce, and the rigour of regulatory oversight. So a better-designed, newer reactor is not always a safer one.

Experts say that the

largest single internal factor determining the safety of a nuclear plant is the culture of security among regulators, operators and the workforce – and creating such a culture is not easy.

This security risk brings with it, the need for a very high level of secrecy……….

There was already a shortage of skilled nuclear workers, even before COVID19 hit the world. The most recent Global Energy Talent Index (GETI) reports “an acute need for talent” in the nuclear sector. Nuclear professionals are an aging group, with a “vast wave of imminent retirements.” The onslaught of the pandemic could mean some shortages of well-informed, capable professionals working at nuclear reactors, and at other nuclear facilities, such as waste management and transport. And there’s that even more secretive area, nuclear weapons production and management.

Of course, there’s that whole other workforce – the nuclear security officers, whose job is just as critical as that of the physicists and engineers. There’s quite a history of anti- nuclear activists breaking into nuclear facilities in order to demonstrate their vulnerability to terrorist attacks.

The nuclear lobby is of course, fighting to win hearts and minds, with some persuasive propaganda. Their theme is the value of nuclear research reactors in industry and health, and especially in the detection of viruses. And they do have a point. Still radionuclides are being produced by non-nuclear means. The role of small nuclear research reactors is increasingly looking like the fig leaf on an unsustainable and super-expensive nuclear power industry.

In the meantime, as trade and industry slow down, with the global march of this pandemic, the nuclear industry is already suffering a set-back. The loss of well-informed staff, whether in the professional area, or at lower levels in the workforce hierarchy, poses a special problem for this industry, with its secretive culture. Nuclear power has a unique safety requirement, meaning that its reactors may need to be shut down, or at least, have their operations cut back.  https://www.onlineopinion.com.au/view.asp?article=20808

March 27, 2020 - Posted by | 2 WORLD, health, safety

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