Preparedness for and response to a nuclear emergency are in large part technical, physical undertakings. They involve equipment such as pumps, generators, containment vessels, and helicopters. But they aren’t just technical. Preparedness and response also involve, as my roundtable colleague Manpreet Sethi has pointed out, sophisticated legal instruments and organizational capacities. Moreover, as noted in the section for readers’ comments, preparedness and response involve sophisticated regulatory and training abilities. But no matter how many international conventions a nation has ratified, and no matter how flexible (or inflexible) its approach to beyond design-basis accidents, critical decisions during an actual emergency ultimately rest with a plant’s staff—and on the staff’s judgment of the emergency’s magnitude. As a disaster progresses, judgment evolves. Experts shift their views on the disaster’s severity and its potential consequences. They discover entanglements between systems that had previously been thought unrelated.
Bulletin of Atomic Scientists 10th May 2016 read more »