Abstract: On March 11, 2011, an enormous earthquake triggered a 50-foot tsunami, inundating the six-unit Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant in northeastern Japan. The flood caused damage to the plant’s electrical systems far beyond what the plant’s owner or government regulators had ever anticipated. Ultimately, three reactors suffered core melt accidents and released substantial quantities of radioactive materials into the environment. After the accident, Japan and many other countries sought to identify the root causes of Fukushima and take steps to reduce the risk of future accidents. In the U.S., a Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) task force identified multiple deficiencies in its regulations and made twelve recommendations to strengthen safety requirements. However, due in part to nuclear industry lobbying, the NRC rejected most of the task force recommendations and adopted only weakened versions of the remaining ones. Today, as Fukushima becomes a distant memory, the NRC is implementing a “transformation” initiative that could actually weaken critical safety requirements. This talk will discuss the lessons of the accident for nuclear safety, and the extent to which the NRC’s post-Fukushima actions adequately address them.
Speaker Bio: Edwin Lyman is the Acting Director of the Nuclear Safety Project and Senior Scientist of the Global Security Program. His research focuses on nuclear proliferation, nuclear terrorism, and nuclear power safety and security. Dr. Lyman is a co-author of Fukushima: The Story of a Nuclear Disaster (New Press, 2014). In 2018, Dr. Lyman was awarded the Leo Szilard Lectureship Award from the American Physical Society.
Before joining UCS, Dr. Lyman was president of the Nuclear Control Institute. From 1992 to 1995, he was a postdoctoral research associate at Princeton University’s Center for Energy and Environmental Studies. He earned a PhD in physics from Cornell University in 1992.