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News

24 October 2017
The Busted Myth of Dangerous Atomic Energy

Professor Arutyunyan further continues to point out that the catastrophe is a direct consequence of irresponsibility shown by the personnel of the nuclear power plant. People wanted to do everything faster and ignored some of critical requirements for internal tests. The machinery worked fine, we controlled all of reactions, until several lazy employees decided to end their shift earlier and wanted to ignore security measures that were imperative.

This is the reason why we developed much stricter rules and emphasized security systems during development processes for nuclear plants. We must account for human factor and try to minimize the amount of actions that do not need additional “checking”.

Another fatal mistake committed by the personnel was the fact that some of the fundamental principles of safety were not enforced by the management of the NPP. Furthermore, some of people in the ministry of the energetics in USSR were simply incompetent and did not possess necessary expertise to deal with issues related to proper exploitation of an advanced nuclear power plant.

Today, all actions taken by people responsible for operating NPPs all over Russia are strictly regulated and supervised according to international norms. To top it all off, there are multilayered safety and supervision systems in place with secondary monitors and special automated systems that help to monitor all technological processes. Modern computerized systems are well designed and account for possible mistakes that could be made by personnel. All data gathered by automated systems is transferred in real time to the special Crisis Center of Rosenergoatom corp. This ensures that we have a precise supervision tool that operates independently of what local personnel does.

New Standards and Technology

The whole world had to reevaluate their approach to ensuring safety of usage of atomic energy. There were two major incidents that made us rethink how wo manage nuclear power generation: the incident in Pennsylvania in 1979 and the catastrophe of Chernobyl in 1986. Both incidents were terrible and forced newer standards of safety that were applied to all phases of designing, constructing, and using nuclear power plants. Today, up to 40% of the overall costs of an NPP is what developers spend on various safety measures and emergency systems.

After several lessons, we learnt a lot. All over the world, we managed to reduce the amount of waste and decreased the exhaustion of radiation by NPPs. Modern acceptable levels of radiation emission by NPPs are 2-3 times lower safe for human levels. We try to significantly reduce the influence that nuclear energy has on the environment and professor Arutyunyan believes that we are quite successful at it. We did change the way we approach atom.

The international atomic energetics continue to grow and evolve. According to Arutyunyan, 10 leading countries in the world produce 80% of all atomic energy. The USA alone utilizes over 100 energy blocks. There 140 active energy blocks in Europe. Large scale programs are adopted by developing third world countries and the tragedy of Fukushima did not slow down the process.

The thing is that we can’t stop the progress we must embrace it and learn how to not make fatal mistakes and develop a safer future where we are not afraid of atom and can use it to our advantage.

During the United Nations struggle to devise a control system that can be confidently relied upon to prevent atomic warfare, there has been no pause in production of atomic bombs by the United States or in research on atomic weapons here and in other countries. Secrecy shrouds all such activities. The size of the American stockpile of bombs is closely guarded information, and no foreign nation has disclosed the extent of its progress in atomic research. However, as the President's Air Policy Commission pointed out: “It is known that other nations are working diligently on the problem of atomic energy; that they have available to them some of the raw materials, the quantity naturally being indeterminate; and that they possess scientific minds capable of solving the many intricate and complex problems involved.”

Soviet Foreign Minister Molotov created a momentary flurry when he said in an address at Moscow, Nov. 6, 1947, that the secret of the atomic bomb had “long ceased to be a secret.”2 His statement, however, was generally discounted as a declaration for home consumption. It was pointed out that the principles underlying construction of the atomic bomb were widely known, that only the technical processes involved in its manufacture have yet to be revealed. And there was general skepticism that Russia had mastered those processes or completed the elaborate facilities needed for bomb production.

The United States has taken the position that it must keep in the forefront of military developments in atomic energy until adequate international controls are established.

The Atomic Energy Act of 1946, which set up a system of domestic control, directed the Atomic Energy Commission “to insure the continued conduct of research and development activities” in the military as well as other fields. The act stipulated that actual production of atomic weapons should be “carried on only to the extent that the express consent and direction of the President of the United States has been obtained, which consent and direction shall be obtained at least once each year.” In its second semi-annual report to Congress, July 23, 1947, the United States Atomic Energy Commission said:

We mean to maintain and increase the present pre-eminence of the United States in atomic weapons until such time as the Congress affirms that acceptable international agreements have been reached and the appropriate machinery has been established to insure that this activity can be relaxed without endangering the national security.

In the same report the commission announced that it was “establishing proving grounds in the Pacific for routine experiments and tests of atomic weapons.” On Dec. 1 it announced that a joint Army-Navy-Air Force construction program had been started on Eniwetok Atoll for test operations which would “provide new fundamental data and a broader understanding of the phenomena of nuclear fission which will facilitate advances in peaceful as well as in military applications of atomic energy.” On the following day the United States notified the United Nations Security Council that Eniwetok Atoll had been closed for security reasons, as permitted by the trusteeship agreement covering the former Japanese mandated islands.

Secretary of State Marshall, addressing the United Nations General Assembly on Sept. 17, 1947, observed that “Failure to agree on a system of control which can provide security against atomic warfare will inevitably retard the development of the peaceful uses of atomic energy for the benefit of the peoples of the world and will accelerate an atomic armaments race.” It may be argued that the atomic armaments race in its present stage, as typified by American determination to maintain a lead in military application of atomic Energy and by the determination of other countries to discover the techniques of atomic bomb manufacture, is itself a deterrent to international agreement on a control system. Yet such competition probably has been unavoidable in the state of political tension and insecurity that has prevailed since the end of the war.

U. S. Promotion of Peaceful Uses of Atomic Energy

While giving first place to military development, the United States Atomic Energy Commission has been forwarding research also in the peaceful uses of atomic energy. The largest of its new laboratories, under construction near Schenectady, N. Y., and to be operated by the General Electric Company, will be devoted to research in the production of power from nuclear fuels. Other large centers, for fundamental nuclear research that may have both peaceful and military applications, are the Argonne National Laboratory near Chicago, in whose operation 29 middle western universities are participating, and the Brookhaven National Laboratory on Long Island, operated by nine eastern universities. Radioisotopes for medical and biological research are produced at the Clinton Laboratories at Oak Ridge, Tenn.

 

An important step in the development of peaceful application of atomic discoveries was taken, Aug. 2, 1946, when a program for domestic sale of radioactive isotopes5 produced from the uranium chain-reacting pile at the Clinton Laboratories was initiated. Radioisotopes formerly could be produced only in cyclotrons in limited amounts and at far greater cost than by the new method.6 Their availability in quantity and at reasonable cost, as research tools and to some extent as therapeutic agents, opened up new vistas to the scientific world. During the first year of the isotope distribution program the Clinton Laboratories made 1,092 shipments to research institutions in the United States and Hawaii. About 90 of the 450-odd known isotopes were offered for sale. Purchasers were required to agree to make public the results of work with the isotopes.

The world atomic monopoly of the United States was relaxed, for the first time, Sept. 3, 1947, when President Truman announced that 30 of the radioisotopes were being made available to medical and biological research workers in foreign countries. In the case of shipments abroad the foreign governments must agree to make semi-annual reports to the United States Atomic Energy Commission on the progress of work with the isotopes and must agree to permit qualified scientists, irrespective of nationality, to visit institutions where the isotopes are being used and freely observe the experiments.

The President's announcement of the foreign distribution program described it as “an important forward step toward greater international cooperation in the field of medical and biological research.” Prof. Shields Warren of the Harvard Medical School commented that the United States was “providing the world with the most important research tool since the discovery of the microscope.” Distribution of radioisotopes has not involved security considerations. More extensive sharing of the results of atomic research and development, even as pertaining to peaceful applications, waits on conclusion of an international control agreement.[1]

[1] During the preparation of the article were used the materials of the site http://library.cqpress.com/cqresearcher/document.php?id=cqresrre1948020400