Risk of another Chernobyl or Fukushima type accident plausible, experts say via Science Daily

Date:September 19, 2016Source:University of SussexSummary:The biggest-ever statistical analysis of historical accidents suggests that nuclear power is an underappreciated extreme risk and that major changes will be needed to prevent future disasters.

A team of risk experts who have carried out the biggest-ever analysis of nuclear accidents warn that the next disaster on the scale of Chernobyl or Fukushima may happen much sooner than the public realizes.

Researchers at the University of Sussex, in England, and ETH Zurich, in Switzerland, have analysed more than 200 nuclear accidents, and — estimating and controlling for effects of industry responses to previous disasters — provide a grim assessment of the risk of nuclear power.

Their worrying conclusion is that, while nuclear accidents have substantially decreased in frequency, this has been accomplished by the suppression of moderate-to-large events. They estimate that Fukushima- and Chernobyl-scale disasters are still more likely than not once or twice per century, and that accidents on the scale of the 1979 meltdown at Three Mile Island in the USA (a damage cost of about 10 Billion USD) are more likely than not to occur every 10-20 years.

As Dr Spencer Wheatley, the lead author, explains: “We have found that the risk level for nuclear power is extremely high.


Professor Benjamin Sovacool of the Sussex Energy Group at the University of Sussex, who co-authored the studies, says: “Our results are sobering. They suggest that the standard methodology used by the International Atomic Energy Agency to predict accidents and incidents — particularly when focusing on consequences of extreme events — is problematic.

“The next nuclear accident may be much sooner or more severe than the public realizes.”


The 15 most costly nuclear events analysed by the team are:

  1. Chernobyl, Ukraine (1986) — $259 billion
  2. Fukushima, Japan (2011) — $166 billion
  3. Tsuruga, Japan (1995) — $15.5 billion
  4. TMI, Pennsylvania, USA (1979) — $11 billion
  5. Beloyarsk, USSR (1977) — $3.5 billion
  6. Sellafield, UK (1969) — $2.5 billion
  7. Athens, Alabama, USA (1985) — $2.1 billion
  8. Jaslovske Bohunice, Czechoslovakia (1977) — $2 billion
  9. Sellafield, UK (1968) — $1.9 billion
  10. Sellafield, UK (1971) — $1.3 billion
  11. Plymouth, Massachusetts, USA (1986) — $1.2 billion
  12. Chapelcross, UK (1967) — $1.1 billion
  13. Chernobyl, Ukraine (1982) — $1.1 billion
  14. Pickering, Canada (1983) — $1 billion
  15. Sellafield, UK (1973) — $1 billion

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The above post is reprinted from materials provided by University of Sussex. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.

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