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An Evaluation of Alternative Safety Criteria for Nuclear Power Plants

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This Note assesses approximately 90 safety criteria and goals for the nuclear power industry that have been proposed over the past 10 years in the United States and elsewhere. These criteria generally address the safety of nuclear power plants in terms of either reactor system safety, individual or societal risks, or in other measurable terms, such as dollar damage. We first categorize the criteria and then evaluate each item according to the following seven performance measures How comprehensive is the criterion, Is it precise and unambiguous, How does it treat uncertain data and methodology, Is it realistic and practicable, Is it defensible, Is it simple and clearly understandable, and Is it internally consistent In our analysis, three trends emerge. First, little consensus exists on what constitutes a universal risk criterion or on how to achieve such a criterion. Although criteria proposed by different individuals often differ by orders of magnitude, they may be based on equally plausible justifications. Conversely, numerically identical criteria might be based on rather diverse justifications. These factors underscore the highly subjective nature of the criteria selection process, a process that may not yield one single, universally accepted criterion. Second, no single criterion is both simple to understand and easy to implement also, a mechanism for implementing the criterion is generally not offered. Third, none of the criteria can adequately accommodate uncertainty in the data. Although any valid criterion must place a bound on uncertainty, such uncertainty is inherent in any complex system and must be treated systematically. This document arrives at a hybrid risk criterion made up of features of many of the criteria evaluated. This criterions features resemble the specifications outlined for each of the performance measures, and as such it has the same shortcomings as those measures.

Subject Categories:

  • Radiobiology
  • Statistics and Probability
  • Safety Engineering
  • Nuclear Power Plants and Fission Reactor Engineering

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