A few days back, I pointed to a piece by the Columbia Journalism Review that took a look at NEI's dispute with the Associated Press over their series on the safety of nuclear power plants. Since that piece was published on Wednesday, a number of readers have weighed in with some interesting comments. We've included a few below:
I see you think the plants were designed for 40 years of use. I think rather that the plants were licensed for 40 years of use. When you get a drivers license lasting for four years, do you expect to quit driving after four years?I'm sure there are more to come. Please feel free to join the fray. Click here to leave your own.
When a steam generator is replaced in a plant is the new steam generator less reliable that the same steam generator placed in a new plant?
The point here is safety is not determined by plant age. Safety is determined by measuring how safe something is. Is the plant safe when it is new? Is the plant safe 10 years later? Is the plant safe 40 years later? Is the plant safe 60 years later? Safety is not based on the age of the plant! This is especially true when large parts of the plant are replaced over time.
Jeff Donn did what many reporters do in similar situations. He presented material without context and relied on “experts” friendly to his point of view to make the material seem far more devastating than it actually is. The nuclear industry was right to go for the throat in this instance. They learned the hard way during the 70’s that if they don’t hit back at reporting like this it will over time do irreparable damage to the industry.
Understanding how carefully nuclear power plants are maintained requires more than a cursory look at some of the countless pages of documents that the industry produces every year. It is not news to any engineer that pipes made of steel occasionally rust or develop thinning walls, that electrical cable insulation becomes brittle in certain situations, or that valves develop leaking seals. We have inspection routines and planned maintenance systems that are designed to identify these situations and correct them before they cause major risks.