This article was printed in CONTROL's October 2009 edition..
Safe Nuclear Technology?
I read your article "What Caused the Three Mile Island Accident?" It's quite good, and you are right that better process control would have prevented accidents like this, but in your conclusion, you say, "Murphy's Law must always be honored."
I'm glad that you think like this, but isn't that a total contradiction?
If Murphy's Law must always be honored, wouldn't that leave room for only ONE conclusion?
People make mistakes. Always. That's a fact you can't deny. It applies to engineers. Its applies to the technology designed by them. It applies to the people manufacturing devices, and it also applies to operators.
So, how can we run nuclear power stations that must be 100% bulletproof when we know that operating and technology can't be 100% bulletproof?
We can create safety to some degree by working hard and thinking twice.
We all don't want planes to crash. But they do. They are quite safe transport, but they fail from time to time.
Where people are at work and where technology created by people exists, there will always be mistakes, and this leaves room for failures, including catastrophic failures.
Nuclear power plants and their operators must run 100% error-free, but they can't do it. So my conclusion is that it's inhuman that nuclear technology exists at all.
I'd be interested to know how you think about this.
Independent IT professional
Béla Lipták replies:
Yes, Roland, I agree, and I am sure that in a 1,000 years historians will refer to the 20th and 21st centuries as the period it took to learn that there was no safe nuclear or clean fossil energy.
Yet I would still defend Murphy's Law, because, while we can't make nuclear 100% safe, we can make it "safer" by listening to Murphy.
Nuclear Waste Disposal
I read your commentary in Control about the problem of disposing of nuclear wastes.
We and another group of researchers came to the same conclusion. The present staff in charge of waste storage are interested in continuing with what they presently do, since it protects their jobs and paychecks.
Gerdt Van Drie,
University of California, Irvine
Safety and Security Culture
Walt Boyes' July issue column, "Functional Safety and Security—It's Cultural" was excellent—a very thoughtful discussion on this topic (and I'm sure that Dow appreciates the great reference to their safety culture).
Very nicely done!
Laura M. Patrick
Media Relations Manager
Process Automation Division, ABB
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