Nuclear Safety Discussion - Split Thread

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Well, @mfb , a local club for country music singers is up to the peoples to say their opinion , or they can form a fine opinion on Trump's haircut from the cable news , that was my original thought.
It's somewhat illogical that most of the population would not be allowed inside a nuclear facility simply because they know nothing about it and could cause danger to themselves or others.Yet when a fine working plant has to go into premature shutdown all the local pub drunks and football fan's otherwise rioting in the stadium while being drunk now have a opinion about stuff like which is then amplified if not entirely made in the first place by groups like Greenpeace , which otherwise do good things but sometimes I think they themselves can't understand what they are fighting for. And all of this garbage is then taken seriously by politicians because they are worried to loose public support for reelection or money from donors.
A bit stupid ,Christ was spot on when comparing people to sheep.

Sorry for the off topic bits.:)
 
  • #3
russ_watters
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What is not one of those fields?
True in general, but on specific issues nuclear power may well have it the worst. Contrast it with, say, anti-GMO or anti-vax crackpottery which get a lot of press, but don't kill very many people. For either to have been as successful as the anti-nuclear movement, they would have had to succeed in getting vaccines and GMOs protested to oblivion. Off the top of my head, I can't think of another piece of useful technology that has been so successfully marginalized by fearmongering.
 
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  • #4
mheslep
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Agreed. I think the difference with nuclear is that other technologies like GMO and vaccines did not threaten to abolish trillion dollar industries by replacing them as nuclear did, and does. Ads for solar power and the like can be found going back to the 70s paid for by fossil fuel interests. More recently, see the natural gas money taken by the rabidly anti nuclear Sierra Club
 
  • #5
True in general, but on specific issues nuclear power may well have it the worst.
Maybe nuclear power should, you know, try to NOT melt their reactors from time to time?
 
  • #6
russ_watters
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Maybe nuclear power should, you know, try to NOT melt their reactors from time to time?
They of course do put quite a bit of effort into that. Doesn't change the point.
 
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anorlunda
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True in general, but on specific issues nuclear power may well have it the worst. Contrast it with, say, anti-GMO or anti-vax crackpottery which get a lot of press, but don't kill very many people. For either to have been as successful as the anti-nuclear movement, they would have had to succeed in getting vaccines and GMOs protested to oblivion. Off the top of my head, I can't think of another piece of useful technology that has been so successfully marginalized by fearmongering.
I think you are right, but we shouldn't be surprised because nuclear power has always been associated with nuclear bombs in the public mind.
 
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Maybe nuclear power should, you know, try to NOT melt their reactors from time to time?
Several hundred nuclear power plants never released relevant amounts of radioactivity. Just a single one released so much that it had measurable health effects. Meanwhile, coal power plants released more radioactive material than all nuclear power plants combined - including the Chernobyl accident (and Fukushima and TMI and whatever you want to add, doesn't change the conclusion). And radioactive materialis by far not the worst thing that is released by coal power plants.
 
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  • #9
russ_watters
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I think you are right, but we shouldn't be surprised because nuclear power has always been associated with nuclear bombs in the public mind.
Yes, the tactic has been very successful. Fortunately, vaccines=autism less so.
 
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  • #10
Several hundred nuclear power plants never released relevant amounts of radioactivity. Just a single one released so much that it had measurable health effects.
The point is, nuclear power industry's promises about safety were such that over last 50 years, statistically, there should have been not even one major meltdown of the power reactor. But in reality, there were FIVE meltdowns.

I'm not counting "small" accidents, such as partial meltdowns damaging just a few assemblies, and accidents on small reactors such as SL-1 accident. Just the major meltdowns.
 
  • #11
mheslep
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Maybe nuclear power should, you know, try to NOT melt their reactors from time to time?
In the context of a technology being under much severe scrutiny, the two major light water reactor accidents don't explain the pressure on nuclear. The extraction and use of fossil fuels has a much worse record. But there's no Helen Caldicot out there protesting fire.
 
  • #12
russ_watters
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The point is, nuclear power industry's promises about safety were such that over last 50 years, statistically, there should have been not even one major meltdown of the power reactor. But in reality, there were FIVE meltdowns.
Who made such a promise? I've never seen such a thing. Regardless, promises are not realities. The actual safety record is the reality that matters.
 
  • #13
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Civilization is the triumph of the masses , or we could say proletariat, after all most of the things we argue over like fossil fuels and energy needs and manufacturing are there because we have come to the point were we ask for them and can't live without them , also refuse to. A friend once told me , he said , "We need to change the system" , i thought about it , yes his right but he sees the system in the wrong way , I said you know what, you are the system , you are part of it and the blind majority actually are the ones that dictate most things without them even realizing that.

As for nuclear I think the scare is 50/50 half of it is because nuclear came into the world first in the shape of a deadly weapon whose power was showcased in WW2, since then literally every action movie with a bad guy trying to take over the world has shown us the images of US atomic tests to make the point of the movie more illuminating.
The second reason could very well be pure lack of knowledge.Few posts earlier Nuke showed a good example of this by the story he told of the protester.

It would be hard to tell people because the basic opinion has already set in the last decades but they should look and compare fossil vs nuclear for example.
Yes a nuclear accident might involve higher risk and worse aftermath yet we have had countless accident involving fossil fuels , in fact so much that it would be impossible to even produce a precise estimate of all the deaths caused by the industry itself (workers, people affected by accidents etc) not to mention the ones indirectly affected by global warming etc.
Let me give you just one simple example of a seemingly harmless thing going bad.A natural gas pipeline developed a leak near the city of Ufa , back in 1989 in the USSR. near the pipeline were train tracks and two passenger trains were driving opposite directions , the wheels made some sparks and ignited the cloud of gas which due to atmospheric conditions was lying low, the trains were literally blown to pieces , 575 people died.
This is just one "tiny" accident involving fossil fuel industry , there have been countless over the 100+ years of us intensively using it.

You might ask what is my point here ? Simple , every major industry man has ever known involves some sort of danger and trial and error as we learn and progress.
Out lining one as good and the other as bad is simply one of two cases , either the person doing so is paid to do so, or he or she is simply ignorant and uninformed, mostly both.


I also want to point out that actually most of the nuclear accidents, we have had , were due to deliberate and ignorant actions from authorities and the ones in charge , they were not a technical malfunction, or some sort of unpredictable scientific problem.
For example , the Russian military weapons research etc Mayak plant, of which the majority knew nothing about until recently used to have some very bad practices of waste disposal , the few people living in that region as well as wildlife has been affected yet no one knows how much because , well you know , nobody is told anything.
Also Chernobyl , used as the most frightening phrase in recent human history , was most of all an accident partly because of human error and partly because of ignorance at many levels.Cheap easy to build and very powerful reactors that produce plutonium without the need to go offline , yet with some dangerous features like the positive void coefficient etc, but you folks already know that , you also know that after the accident they upgraded the remaining reactors to make them safer.
It just goes to prove we can do many great things if we want to.sadly many times money and interests or simply laziness kicks in and problems arise , yet nuclear power asks for both the authorities and scientists and operators to do their best and be on the edge.
We shouldn't be scared of technology but rather of our own ignorance or that of our fellow citizens.


The accidents that were technical failures happen to be the less dramatic ones , like Three Mile Island , United Kingdom's Windscale fire etc.

P.S. nikkkom I doubt anyone in their right mind has ever made a promise that there won't be any accidents.Much like no one can promise there won't be any wars.
Progress comes with some accidents and dangers, but I'd rather risk an accident for something better and developing and promising than for something we have used for decades , which starts to run out and causes so many well documented and proved problems along the way.


I apologize if you find this too long , just my morning coffee gave me some impulse to write down some thoughts while reading this discussion.
 
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  • #14
Who made such a promise? I've never seen such a thing.
The technical promise is the design core damage frequency. Example:

http://www.edf.com/fichiers/fckeditor/Commun/Innovation/conference/BWRsbasics_va.pdf page 21:

BWR4: 10^-5 per year
BWR6: 10^-6 per year
ABWR: 10^-7 per year
...

Even the "high" 10^-5 per year core damage frequency would mean that 1000 reactors need to run for 100 years to statistically have about one core damage event. We now have only ~450 operating power reactors.

Regardless, promises are not realities. The actual safety record is the reality that matters.
The reality is: nuclear power industry repeatedly failed to deliver on its promises of safety and cost.
Why would anyone be surprised that general public has a not too favorable opinion about it now?
 
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  • #15
russ_watters
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The technical promise is the design core damage frequency. Example:

http://www.edf.com/fichiers/fckeditor/Commun/Innovation/conference/BWRsbasics_va.pdf page 21:

BWR4: 10^-5 per year
BWR6: 10^-6 per year
ABWR: 10^-7 per year
...

Even the "high" 10^-5 per year core damage frequency would mean that 1000 reactors need to run for 100 years to statistically have about one core damage event. We now have only ~450 operating power reactors.
A few things:
1. That data is for specific makes/models of reactor an certainly doesn't apply to the industry as a whole.
2. You are improperly separating the Fukushima meltdowns in your count: they were 1 accident.
3. The basis of the predicted reliability is not provided. I suspect it is based in part on other additional assumptions about support system reliability.

That link is way too focused to support your broad/sweeping claim.
The reality is: nuclear power industry repeatedly failed to deliver on its promises of safety....

Why would anyone be surprised that general public has a not too favorable opinion about it now?
You connected the statements as if they are related: they aren't. The successful anti-nuclear campaigns happened prior to any of the accidents except TMI (not sure if you included that) and we're based in large part on lies; in particular the inappropriate link between nuclear power and nuclear weapons.

If anything, nuclear power is seeing a resurgence today as the old lies gradually get forgotten. It has a long way to go though.

This "promise of safety" claim remains a powerful red herring though. The wording implies "not safe" when in reality, at worst (pending you proving your claim about the promise even existing as you claim) "not as safe", which is still really, really safe. So a proper understanding of the claimed "failure to deliver on its promise of safety" should still result in one supporting nuclear power.
 
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  • #16
mheslep
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The point is, nuclear power industry's promises about safety were such that over last 50 years, statistically, there should have been not even one major meltdown of the power reactor. But in reality, there were FIVE meltdowns.

I'm not counting "small" accidents, such as partial meltdowns damaging just a few assemblies, and accidents on small reactors such as SL-1 accident. Just the major meltdowns.
No that's not the point, but a (non unique) facet of the industry on which you choose to concentrate.
 
  • #17
mheslep
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I was working the Barsebaek plant and was witness to an anti-nuke demonstration in the city of Malmo, Sweden. I asked a protester "Where will you get your electricity?" She answered "Oh, those are NUCLEAR PLANTS not ELECTRIC PLANTS!" So it goes...
Protester was also probably a polio and measles carrier, as vaccines [strike] are radioactive[/strike] whatever.
 
  • #18
A few things:
1. That data is for specific makes/models of reactor an certainly doesn't apply to the industry as a whole.
Yes, they do apply to industry as a whole.
To prove me wrong, please give me an example of a post-1970 power reactor design which did not promise at least 10^-5 core damage frequency.

2. You are improperly separating the Fukushima meltdowns in your count: they were 1 accident.
What's improper about it? Did nuclear plant designers ever say "BTW, no guarantees about co-sited reactors: if one goes up in smake, all others will too"? Not at all. All we ever heard that NPPs are incredibly safe and won't melt down.

3. The basis of the predicted reliability is not provided. I suspect it is based in part on other additional assumptions about support system reliability.
You are trying to make an argument, but I don't understand which. Are you trying to say that nuclear power plant designers did NOT promise core damage frequency of 10^-5 and lower?

You connected the statements as if they are related: they aren't. The successful anti-nuclear campaigns happened prior to any of the accidents except TMI (not sure if you included that) and we're based in large part on lies; in particular the inappropriate link between nuclear power and nuclear weapons.
If NPPs would, since 1970, work WITHOUT meltdowns for decades on end, these anti-nuclear campaigns would gradually abate and people get much more supportive of nuclear power.

This "promise of safety" claim remains a powerful red herring though.
Are you disputing that nuclear power industry did promise the stations to be safe, specifically promise core damage frequency of 10^-5 and lower?
 
  • #20
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Did they calculate this core damage frequency including all the support systems a NPP has or simply the very active zone parts durability along their lifetime ?

Another factor one must take into consideration is that not all nuclear accidents are to due with the frequency or their safety record , that's like saying the Airbus or Boeing or Mig have a bad safety record because they have crashed but we must look at exactly why they crashed and most of the time it was either human error or as in late times a deliberate terrorist attack whether smashing them into the WTC or simply setting the autopilot to crash the plane into the Alps etc etc.



Please correct me if I leave out some or have forgotten but to my mind the only real core meltdowns that were technical failures were TMI and Fukushima, all the others were either small scale ,navy or military objects.
Chernobyl was more of a core blast than meltdown but we can't actually count Chernobyl fully into the reactor safety table simply because it was mostly a human error on many levels, both the oversight and the actual staff that night which made dangerous and fatal errors.Like running the reactor with too low of a power allowing core poisoning then running at almost no moderation to compensate the poison burn up and shutting off all automatic safety features ,(oh i hear Nikkkom yelling that RBMK is at fault for being super dangerous :D) Well I sort of admit , even the operators agreed to this in the other RBMK facility were I was, that RBMK is a very sneaky and rather dangerous machine especially prior to 1986 security updates, so it required the crew to be both very wise and skillful and experienced in nuclear physics of which atleast two of the three named were missing somehow at that night shift.
Also they saw 3 years before Chernobyl at Ignalina that the control rod tips increased the reactivity when first inserted , they told this to the higher authorities but they were dismissed as it was not seen as a big enough potential threat.Again is the reactor to blame or the authorities for being ignorant and not fixing things earlier.


Although I must say as I read from time to time there have been some other mostly unknown incidents in nuclear reactors that could have escalated to the highest INES 7.
And most of them if not all have been the operator error, so the industry should really put up it's awareness and oversight.I'm especially concerned (I'm not a racist) with the developing countries like India and various Asian countries etc of developing nuclear reactors because they don't have the experience most of the former USSR and US , Europe has also their oversight might lack the needed attention to detail and such seemingly tiny errors can lead to a major accident.
 
  • #21
russ_watters
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Yes, they do apply to industry as a whole.
To prove me wrong, please give me an example of a post-1970 power reactor design which did not promise at least 10^-5 core damage frequency.
Chernobyl was constructed starting in 1972. Which of those reactors did it use? This is still your claim, not mine. You have not substantiated it adequately.
What's improper about it? Did nuclear plant designers ever say "BTW, no guarantees about co-sited reactors: if one goes up in smake, all others will too"?
Dear god, I hope so! I would not assume any designer would be so much of an idiot that they would assume an earthquake/tsunami would hit one reactor on a site and not affect the others. So yeah, without substantiation, I'm not willing to accept your assumption.
Not at all. All we ever heard that NPPs are incredibly safe and won't melt down.
"won't melt down"? That's an even more extreme (absolute) claim than the previous unsubstantiated claim.
You are trying to make an argument, but I don't understand which. Are you trying to say that nuclear power plant designers did NOT promise core damage frequency of 10^-5 and lower?
Several:
1. You haven't proven that those numbers are typical of claims 50 years ago.
2. The "core damage frequency" stat is not adequately enough defined to say what it means. If you want to use it, you need to find a definition/description of its breadth/constraints.
If NPPs would, since 1970, work WITHOUT meltdowns for decades on end....
Again:
1. The nuclear industry's grind to a halt in the US in particular was completed in 1980, prior to Chernobyl.
2. They have worked for decades on end without meltdowns. Not sure if you are including TMI, but that was in 1979, Chernobyl was 1986 and Fukushima was 2011. So, prior to 1970, zero. In the 2.5 decades between Chernobyl and Fukushima, zero.
3. That's still an unreasonable standard, but I get that:
...these anti-nuclear campaigns would gradually abate and people get much more supportive of nuclear power.
That's trivially true, but at PF our intellectual quality standards require you to be better than that. Your assessment needs to be based on facts and logic, not the illogical scaremongering of the anti-nuclear crowd. You need to weigh the risks against each other and weigh the logical conclusion, not imply that the fear a lot of people have of flying the day after a plane crash is something reasonable to act on. Speaking as a moderator, you need to do better than you are doing. Similarly:
Are you disputing that nuclear power industry did promise the stations to be safe, specifically promise core damage frequency of 10^-5 and lower?
I am saying you have not adequately supported your claim that they did. I'm also saying that you are applying misleading logic to the implications of it (bait and switch of "not as safe" for implied "unsafe and reasonable to oppose"), even if it is true.
 
  • #22
russ_watters
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Here's how the nuclear safety promise vs actual logic works, using the rough numbers we are dealing with:

Let's say I give you a choice between two options:
1. Option 1 will kill 1 person a year*.
2. Option 2 will kill 100,000 people a year***.

You'd pick option 1 in a no-brainer, wouldn't you? Fast forward 50 years, to find out I was wrong in my promise in #1 by a factor of 100**. You'd have a right to be upset about that, but if you knew that going in, you'd still have picked option #1, wouldn't you? So the implication that nuclear power failing in a safety promise is a legitimate reason not to use it is wrong either way. And that's what happened:

Enough people chose Option 2 in the 1970s to stunt nuclear power's growth and many people still choose Option 2, 40+ years later. I'll say it more directly: The choice you've (and others like you have) made and continue to make results in tens of thousands of additional/unnecessary deaths a year. It boggles my mind that people who appear to know the reality of the options continue to make and argue in favor of that choice.

*This number is a placeholder in lieu of zero in order to avoid a divide by zero error later.

**This is based on the estimated total number of pre-mature deaths to be casued by Chernobyl of about 4,000 -- divided by 50 years, yielding an average of 80 per year.

***100,000 is an obsolete global number, but I think is reasonable. The US in particular has markedly improved its health/safety record with coal power to the point where it only kills on the order of 5,000 people per year vs something like 20,000 per year a decade or two ago. Moving in the other direction, 100,000 globally was a commonly cited number a decade ago, but has been swamped recently by the economic rises of China and India, with a quick google supporting numbers of about 500,000 per year, most of them in those two countries alone.

Additional assumptions:
1. Option 2 does not count future impacts of global warming.
2. Option 1's analysis does not include differing reliability factors between countries or improvements in safety with time. Since Chernobyl was the only power plant accident that killed anyone so far, that's a big problem with the analysis. In other words, just to do the analysis at all, I have to vastly over-state the risk in order to make it calculable. Unfortunately, nuclear power is too safe to do accurate/reliable accounting of its safety record (twisted irony intended).
 
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  • #23
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I think russ , that in our modern world , especially in countries like China the policy to build more coal and less nuclear was not a public decision rather a government one , also there are countries for whom coal is cheaper in the short term so they simply go with whats cheaper.

As for radiation , in small to medium exposure I think it's a really big gamble to say precisely how much it will affect , even after Chernobyl some of the liquidators live as if nothing had happened while others have developed cancer and died , yet both received similar dosages.Also the fact that this happened in one of the most secretive countries in the world - the former USSR , much of the data and true scale of things has been hidden and left unknown.
Not all of the medical reports were true so we can only estimate the true numbers.
Surely Chernobyl affected many , some simply psychologically and Nikkom comes from Ukraine so i understand his sentiment about nuclear energy , the liquidation was one of the most complicated emergency operations in human history.

I think the problem with accidents like Chernobyl is twofold , firstly people don't know the whole workings behind as to why it happened and why similar things can't repeat themselves elsewhere and also such an accident gives a big focus on itself yet on the other hand coal power plants and fossils in general are like smoking , nobody is scared from it directly not even the smokers as in the short term it seems almost harmless it doesn't affect you in any certain way , it develops it's effects slowly and gradually over the years and because the society has a very short memory for long term evils its easy to focus on the short term blasts , much like the whole modern media takes something blows it out of proportion to gain views and then leaves it behind to grab the next hot story.Add heavy lobbying and biased opinions to that and don't wonder we live in a mixed up world.
 
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  • #24
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Also I wanted to add another thing i just thought of , surely the general public would not understand but there is a big difference in meltdowns , if I'm correct all the other meltdowns including Fukushima happened when the reactor is shut down and all control rods are inserted and emergency cooling provided and then lost.

Chernobyl on the other hand experienced a progressing and total meltdown along with atleast two powerful explosions and all this happened seconds after the reactor was driven first by operators then picked up on itself into supercriticality.
In other words no other meltdown has happened in a state when the reactor is operating at it's absolute maximum and by maximum I don't mean the design maximum specification but the close maximum a pile of stacked uranium can reach if all control is removed.
The reactor control room meters stopped at some 30 000 MW, and that's simply because the detectors were blown apart the actual power probably hit even higher.
that's enough power so that if harvested could cover multiple smaller countries I think , because the one in which I live is fully covered by a Hydro station which has an output capacity of 950MW.

I read experts say that the blasts both first and second were equal to many tons of TNT , I have to say it makes me wonder how the reactor building's foundations and largest support structures remained standing and how the third unit, whose reactor hall had not that much between the unit 4 reactor hall , were unaffected and continued operation until morning.

All in all we must understand that modern reactors are built such that upon any trigger of danger they will automatically shut down.So even if all coolant and cooling is lost the meltdown will not be anywhere close as tragic and out of all proportion as in Chernobyl.



To bring some fun in this discussion I want to say I have heard upon discussion that some really fanatic religious people have said that they think Chernobyl was partly an act of God which made all the right criteria for such an awful and never before seen tragedy so that this event could be one of the few large factors contributing to the collapse of the USSR (evil empire). About the second part they were right , the cleanup did cost some serious money and resources both material and human.and it still continues to cost a fortune.
But from the bright side , even religious nuts understand that such events are very very unlikely to happen , they are like the births of genius composers , once in a few centuries.
So I go with one of my favorite musicians of which I have many , by the name of Bob Marley who sang a verse in his "Redemption song"
quote "
Have no fear for atomic energy,
'Cause none of them can stop the time.
"

I think a very intuitively bright conclusion from a man otherwise very far standing from nuclear physics.



P.S. While thinking about this I want to ask the more experienced folks here , assume a thought experiment, the same thing somehow happens in a reactor with up to date containment structure like most modern BWR and PWR.Somehow all control and moderation is lost and it happens when the reactor is at it's or near it's maximum output thermal power.Also assume that no further moderation or operator control is given and the reactor is allowed to "ride free" as it pleases , what would happen could it jump to RBMK energy levels at the accident and develop pressure strong enough to blow the containment vessel into pieces?
I know that atleast in the PWR the water itself largely acts as the moderator and upon it's loss the ratio of thermal neutrons vs fast ones would be in favor of fast so that is like a self limiting safety feature.

I guess that the answer goes like this, if such pressures in the vessel would be achieved the vessel would collapse but the thing is such conditions cannot be achieved normally or even abnormally in most functioning modern reactors so that wont happen.But still any opinions are appreciated.
 
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  • #25
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Chernobyl is also a good example in terms of risk estimates: A series of really blatant violations of safety measurements (of the type "never do this, no matter what happens") was necessary to make the accident happen. How to include that in a risk estimate? You can use basically everything in a way that is dangerous to humans. Do we need assessments how likely a pen is used to be as murder weapon? Does that make pens inherently dangerous?
 
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