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Journal mvdwege's Journal: The REAL lessons from Fukushima, part 1 4

Reading technologically oriented web forums, like e.g. Slashdot, amongst those that are not outright against nuclear power, two views seem to dominate in this author's opinion:

- The earthquake and tsunami were unprecedented, no-one could prepare for that.

- If only TepCo had sited their backup generators better, there would
    not have been a problem

As a computer security professional, this line of thinking sounds familiar to me: it's a 'Default Allow' strategy. This is where you allow full operation, and only build in safeguards or blocks against exceptional circumstances.

Unfortunately, as any professional in the field can tell you, this is a losing strategy; defense against exceptions is futile, as there will always be an exploit that you did not foresee. This makes your security policy an endless race to catch up to the bad guys, a race where you will always trail the leader.

If the nuclear industry's view on safety really comes down to assuming safety and planning for contingencies, then any mistrust thrown their way is deserved. This strategy leaves us scrambling for a solution when, not if, a disaster occurs. Fukushima is merely a case in point.

The only way to implement fundamentally safe nuclear power is:

- Make sure that with no outside intervention the reaction slows down
    and stops gracefully. Any system that relies on outside influences
    on the reactor core to keep it stable is fundamentally unsound.

- Assume failure. Build emergency response procedures assuming total
    failure of even the passive systems mentioned above. The point is
    not to think of what can go wrong and try to prevent it, but act to
    contain the damage if things do go wrong.

As long as these two principles are not implemented, not widely supported, and not communicated to the public, the industry will have to live with a well-deserved reputation of being dishonest about the risks of nuclear power.

Part 2, with my thoughts on what the other problem in the nuclear industry is coming up next.

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The REAL lessons from Fukushima, part 1

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"To take a significant step forward, you must make a series of finite improvements." -- Donald J. Atwood, General Motors