Nuclear Reactor Safety Research Since Three Mile Island

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Science  09 Apr 1982:
Vol. 216, Issue 4542, pp. 131-135
DOI: 10.1126/science.216.4542.131


The Three Mile Island nuclear power plant accident has resulted in redirection of reactor safety research priorities. The small release to the environment of radioactive iodine—13 to 17 curies in a total radioactivity release of 2.4 million to 13 million curies—has led to a new emphasis on the physical chemistry of fission product behavior in accidents; the fact that the nuclear core was severely damaged but did not melt down has opened a new accident regime—that of the degraded core; the role of the operators in the progression and severity of the accident has shifted emphasis from equipment reliability to human reliability. As research progresses in these areas, the technical base for regulation and risk analysis will change substantially.