The big challenge for the nuclear industry is getting the message across to the public that nuclear power is safe, says Professor Laurence Williams, who headed the NII – Britain’s watchdog for nuclear installations – for almost three decades.
“One of the challenges for the nuclear industry is to communicate to the public not only on the situation in Japan and its implications – the issue there that at the moment we do not have detailed information to enable us to fully, with confidence say what is happening there. Given that it was an absolutely unprecedented challenge in Japan we should be able to get across the message that nuclear power is safe,” Williams said.
The former head of the UK Nuclear Installations Inspectorate says nuclear power by any definition is safe.
“Yes, there is a potential hazard in nuclear energy because of the high energy density associated with nuclear fission. But we ensure through a whole variety of ways that the risk is incredibly low. And it comes by good design, good engineering, good operation and good regulation,” he said.
“All modern reactors have to comply with both national and international standards. Part of analyzing the robustness of the design, takes into account external hazards. They take into account earthquake designs, size-making tsunami, high winds, flooding, extreme temperatures.”
Williams believes that all necessary lessons will be learned from the situation at Fukushima-1 nuclear plant in Japan and there should be no negative effects on building nuclear power plants in the future.
“When the [Fukushima] plant is brought into a stable state we’ve got time to think, to have all lessons learned. The EU has already said that there are going to be stress tests done on all nuclear power stations within Europe. Our (UK) government has supported that. We will look again to make sure that the new plant designs are robust and if any lessons need to be learned then they will be learned,” he said.