official “Risk Study of Nuclear Power Plants“, commissioned by the
Government in 19801, the total risk of a nuclear melt-down
German nuclear power reactor is 2.9 x 10-5 (that’s 0,000029
or 1 nuclear
meltdown in 30.000 years). This does not sound like all too much, if
consider that the usually accepted run-time of a nuclear power plant is
probabilities are calculated
using the following formula:_
Specific Risk = 1 – (1 – Total Risk)Years
This would mean
that the specific risk that a nuclear reactor would experience a
1 – (1 – 0,000029)40 = 0,001 or 0,1%
If this still
sounds like an acceptable risk, then one should keep in mind that
one, but actually 150 nuclear power reactors in operation in Europe
course you cannot just multiply the risk of one reactor experiencing a
by 150. Instead, you have to
the risk in terms of service-years:
Specific Risk = 1 – (1 – Total
Risk)Years of Service x Number of reactors
This would mean
that the specific risk that a nuclear meltdown in Europe
within 40 years is:
1 – (1 – 0,000029)40 x 150 = 0,01597 or 16%
Now, one might say that not all reactors
are as un-safe as the German ones with their “steel caskets”, the “high
of zirconium in their core”, the “lacking heat removal by containment
and their “higher risk of hydrogen combustion” (all comments from the
report on severe accident management2), which is true. But
again, there’s a lot that are still less safe. The calculation above simply
assumes that the German power plants represent the average power plant
Europe and while this might not be entirely correct and the actual
might deviate by some percent points, the main message stays true:
there is a
significantly higher risk of a nuclear meltdown in Europe than the
industry wants us to believe.
A risk of 0,1% is
like rolling a 6 on a die with 1000 sides. If you have only one die,
seem like a long shot, but when there are 150 dice, the chance of
rolling a 6
on one of them seems a lot more probable – 16%. In fact, it’s the same probability as
rolling a 6 on a regular, 6-sides
die – or playing Russian roulette with a 6-barrel gun!
If you look at the
chance of a nuclear meltdown worldwide (again assuming that German
power plants represent the average risk type), just insert the total
reactors (440 in 2004) into the above equation and you get a risk of 39.9%. With
the nuclear meltdown in Chernobyl, this event has already taken
place. The gun has gone off once already – let’s not risk finding out
bullets are still left…
1 GRS 1980: Deutsche
Kernkraftwerke. Fachband 5. Untersuchung von Kernschmelzunfällen. (German Risk
Nuclear Power Plants – Volume 5 – Examination of nuclear meltdowns).
commissioned by the German Federal Ministry for Science and Technology.
2 OECD 1997:
Level 2 PSA methodology and severe accident management.
Prepared by the CNRA Working Group on Inspection Practices (WGIP).
for Economic Co-operation and Development. Paris. Unclassified. OCDE/GD(97)198.