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“What We Don’t Know About Reactors” via the New Yorker

The “State of the Art Reactor Consequence Analyses,” known by the acronym SOARCA, are a set of studies conducted by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission starting in 2006. In the words of the commission, the purpose of the studies was to “develop the most realistic evaluations possible for the potential consequences of severe nuclear accidents.” SOARCA focussed on two plants with different designs—the Surry Power Station, a pressurized water reactor in Virginia, and the Peach Bottom Atomic Power Station, a boiling-water reactor in Pennsylvania. As it happens, Peach Bottom is very similar the reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi plant, and, also as it happens, one of the hypothetical accidents that the N.R.C. examined was a so-called “station blackout,” which is just the situation that led to the nuclear crisis in Japan.

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