Nuclear Reactor Safety

December 5, 1986

Report Outline
Is Nuclear a ‘Faustian Bargain’?
Technology Versus Disaster
Health and Safety Consequences
Regulations and Risks
Special Focus

Is Nuclear a ‘Faustian Bargain’?

The Soviet nuclear disaster at Chernobyl has revived apprehensions in America that nuclear power is a “Faustian bargain,” as it was once dubbed by a leader of the American nuclear power effort. Like Faust's bargain with the devil for sinful pleasures in exchange for the tortures of hell, America's investment in nuclear power promises the luxuries of abundant electricity coupled with the possibility of a catastrophic radioactive accident.

Supporters of nuclear power have argued that the probability of a nuclear accident is so low that society never will have to pay for its Faustian bargain. In a debate that has lasted more than 20 years in this country, probability estimates of a catastrophic nuclear accident have ranged from fewer than one accident every 200 years to one accident every three years.

However, as the accident at the Chernobyl reactor has grimly illustrated, no matter how small the probability, disasters can happen. That reality has led industry experts, regulators, policy makers and the American public to reassess the most disastrous type of accident, known as a “fuel core meltdown,” which was once discounted as so improbable as not to warrant comprehensive safety precautions. The Chernobyl accident was the first full-scale core meltdown in nuclear power history. The results of a half-year of study and debate since Chernobyl have raised some disturbing new safety questions about U.S. nuclear power.

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
Nuclear Power
Jun. 10, 2011  Nuclear Power
Jan. 28, 2011  Managing Nuclear Waste
Jan. 2007  Nuclear Proliferation
Mar. 10, 2006  Nuclear Energy
Jun. 08, 2001  Nuclear Waste
Jan. 22, 1993  Nuclear Fusion
Feb. 22, 1991  Will Nuclear Power Get Another Chance?
Dec. 05, 1986  Nuclear Reactor Safety
Jul. 29, 1983  Nuclear Power's Future
Dec. 04, 1981  America's Nuclear Waste Backlog
Sep. 12, 1980  Nuclear Fusion Development
Aug. 10, 1979  Determining Radiation Dangers
Dec. 03, 1976  Nuclear Waste Disposal
Aug. 22, 1975  Nuclear Safety
Aug. 04, 1971  Nuclear Power Options
Jun. 10, 1964  Atomic Power Development
Feb. 12, 1958  Radiation Hazards
Feb. 27, 1957  Atomic Power Race
Mar. 29, 1955  Atomic Energy for Industry
Apr. 24, 1946  Control of Atomic Energy
Hazardous Substances and Nuclear Waste
Nuclear Energy