Nuclear Safety

Noor Davis
February 21, 2015

Submitted as coursework for PH241, Stanford University, Winter 2015


Fig. 1: Bellefonte Nuclear Power Plant in Hollywood, Alabama. (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

The European Union established a Nuclear Safety Directive, establishing a Community framework for the nuclear safety of nuclear installations, which provides binding legal force to the main international nuclear safety principles.The Nuclear Safety Directive requires EU countries to give highest priority to nuclear safety at all stages of the lifecycle of a nuclear power plant. [1] This includes carrying out safety assessments before the construction of new nuclear power plants and ensuring significant safety enhancements for old reactors. The Directive:

  1. Strengthens the role of national regulatory authorities by ensuring their independence from national governments. EU countries must provide the regulators with sufficient legal powers, staff, and financial resources

  2. Creates a system of peer reviews. EU countries choose a common nuclear safety topic every six years and organise a national safety assessment on it. They then submit their assessment to other countries for review. The findings of these peer reviews are made public

  3. Requires a safety re-evaluation for all nuclear power plants to be conducted at least once every 10 years

  4. Increases transparency by requiring operators of nuclear power plants to release information to the public, both in times of normal operation and in case of incidents.

How the Protocol Works in the United States

Fig. 2: Weapons Storage and Security System (WS3) vault holding a B61 nuclear bomb (possibly inert training version). [3] (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) regulates the commercial and institutional uses of nuclear energy, including nuclear power plants like the Bellefonte Nuclear Power Plant. (See Fig. 1.) The NRC monitors plant performance according to three strategic areas: reactor safety, radiation safety and security. Highly trained, independent NRC inspectors are onsite at each plant to provide oversight of plant operations, maintenance, equipment replacement and training. Also includes in these operations is the protection and safety of the nuclear weapon when it is completed, thru training and oversight as well. (See Fig. 2.)

How the Protocol Works in the World

The World Association of Nuclear Operators (WANO) is an international organization that consolidates the best practices and operating experiences of nuclear plants worldwide to enhance the safety and reliability of nuclear plants. WANO collects information annually on nuclear plant performance in the United States and around the world. The organization found that the U.S. nuclear industry had one of the safest industrial working environments in 2012, which led to high levels of operating efficiency. These implementations and successes can be seen through reviews from officials to verify. [2]

Some organizations believe that you can implement a safety perception survey with your employees to implement a critical eye within the nuclear plants. A safety perception survey is useful because:

  1. The effectiveness of safety efforts cannot be measured by traditional procedural-engineered criteria like safety reviews, audits, and inspections

  2. The effectiveness of safety efforts can be measured with surveys of employee perceptions

  3. A perception survey can effectively identify the strengths and weaknesses of elements of a safety system

  4. A perception survey can effectively identify major discrepancies in perception of program elements between hourly rated employees and levels of management

  5. A perception survey can effectively identify improvements in and deterioration of safety system elements if administered periodically.

© Noor Davis. The author grants permission to copy, distribute and display this work in unaltered form, with attribution to the author, for noncommercial purposes only. All other rights, including commercial rights, are reserved to the author.


[1] L. Ostrom, C. Wilhelmsen, and B. Kaplan, "Assessing Safety Culture," Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Nuclear Safety 34, No. 2, 163 (1993).

[2] "Nuclear Safety Review 2014," International Atomic Energy Agency, GC(58)-INF-3, July 2014.

[3] H. M. Kristensen, "U.S. Nuclear Weapons in Europe," Natural Resources Defense Council, February 2005.