There is no doubt that the accident at Chernobyl was an inexcusable man-made catastrophe. There is no excuse; it should not have happened. The Soviet engineers were among the best – so if it happened to them why would it not happen to a reactor in Ireland? Some say that Chernobyl proves that nuclear is too dangerous a risk. Others say that engineers are arrogant, over confident and cannot be trusted with something so dangerous. These could be valid arguments but, fortunately, there is more to it than that!
The reactors at Chernobyl were graphite moderated (potentially unstable), had no containment building, and were run in a secretive country with a cavalier safety culture. There was an over confident belief in Soviet technological excellence and any criticism was considered treasonous.
It’s no defence, but if the reactor had been operated as designed the accident would not have happened. The accident occurred because of a safety test being carried out on the backup power generation system. This test would not have been allowed in the West. Many reactor safety features were disconnected in order to conduct the test. This was done without a review by any safety committee. Unforeseen delays in executing the test created a circumstance no one had predicted which resulted in this tragic accident. Many lessons have been learned from Chernobyl and the nuclear industry today is much more open with all countries co-operating together.
This accident could not have happened in the West where the plant design could not have been approved here, all reactors have a containment building, most reactors are water moderated (and so cannot physically have an uncontrolled reaction) and the safety culture is very extensive. The post Chernobyl nuclear industry is regulated with trusted international control systems. A Chernobyl type accident would be impossible with any reactor proposed for Ireland.
Chernobyl Myths – “Nobody likes to be “had,” but that is precisely what has happened to the American public with the documentary Chernobyl Heart”. So begins an assessment of Chernobyl Myths published by the American Spectator magazine at this link. It specifically addresses the “Chernobyl Heart” documentary and outlines very different conclusions from those drawn by the Chernobyl Children’s Project.
Closer to home, Ireland’s Department of the Environment has developed a National Emergency Plan that outlines the extremely low level of risk to Irish people from a severe accident in the nearest UK reactor even under unfavourable weather conditions.