USC Professor Meshkati Speaks on Nuclear Safety at China Environment Forum

June 20, 2012 | By More

We are so grateful that USC Professor Najmedin Meshkati agreed to speak at the 2012 Sino-American Juvenile International Energy Alliance Environment Conference that took place on June 15, 2012 at No. 1 High School in Guiyang, China. As forum keynote speaker, Professor Meshkati focused on nuclear power and specifically on how proper human, organization, and technology all need to be in place in order to have a safe nuclear power plant. He emphasized that a weak link in the “chain” of these three items will lead to disaster. Meshkati maintained that most famous nuclear power plant accidents, including Three Mile Island, Bhopal, Chernobyl and Fukushima were not simply due to human error.

Professor Meshkati is a well-known expert in safety in power plants in general, has published countless papers on this topic, and has visited the sites of many of the most famous nuclear disasters. He applauded China’s decision to separate the nuclear regulatory commission from the organization responsible for operating the power plants. Meshkati’s conclusion is that nuclear accidents are the result of many outside factors, each of which can be categorized into one of three categories: human, organization, and technology. These errors include complicated operational practices, the faulty parts or assembly of parts, ineffective training, non-responsive management systems, sudden environmental disturbances, and the list goes on.

Speaking to professor Meshkati privately after the forum on behalf of the International Energy Alliance, I posed a hypothetical question to him: If there were simply no safety issues for nuclear power plants, with renewable power becoming more available and less costly, would there still be a need for nuclear power? Professor Meshkati responded by making three major points. First, our need for electrical power is increasing and that this increase is inevitable. Second, there will always be geographic locations where large amounts of electricity are needed, and yet renewable energy is not practical or even possible. Third, even in areas where we can produce renewable energy, it is often not possible to use only renewable energy to produce the quantity of electricity that is needed.

I then asked about the cost and time to build nuclear power plants as compared to renewable energy technology. Professor Meshkati pointed out that, yes, it takes a lot of time and is expensive because everything has to be custom built. Meshkati then pointed out that there is a new nuclear power plant construction model that is being developed which would implement a prefabricated modular approach to building nuclear power plants.

So then the obvious conclusion is that it seems nuclear power is here to stay and that much more effort needs to be put into the safety aspect of nuclear power plants.

 

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Category: China, China Environment Forum 2012

About the Author ()

I am in my second year of a five year combination BS physics/math and MS systems engineering program offered jointly through Haverford College and UPenn. Helping my community is a lot of fun and means a great deal to me. Through the IEA and other efforts, I've come to learn how much power many can have when there is a clear positive vision, motivation and momentum. "There is no sadder sight than a young pessimist." — Mark Twain

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