Can Chernobyl happen here

Can Chernobyl happen here

No. Though people often compare U.S. nuclear facilities to Chernobyl, U.S. nuclear facilities have several safeguards that Chernobyl did not, including a high-integrity containment building and multiple safety systems.

There are several significant distinctions that should be understood:

  1. There was no containment structure at Chernobyl. Instead, there was a graphite cylinder with a tin roof that surrounded the nuclear fuel. All U.S. plants are required to have a high-integrity containment structure in place.

  2. Safety systems at the Chernobyl facility were disconnected prior to the explosion.

  3. The explosion at Chernobyl was a hydrogen explosion, not a nuclear explosion. Hydrogen was used to generate the heat that powered the turbines and generators to create electricity. In the U.S., steam is used to operate the turbines.

  4. Once the top of the reactor was literally blown off by the hydrogen explosion, irradiated graphite was scattered into the distance which is why the effects were seen so far away. The radioactive isotopes from the nuclear fuel (because of their weight) remained in the reactor.

The type of uranium used at a commercial facility in the U.S. and the structure of the containment dome required to operate a plant here would rule out the possibility of any Chernobyl-type event. That type of plant could NOT be - nor has one ever been - licensed in the U.S. because of the substantial design flaws at Chernobyl. Thus, the accident that occurred there could not be duplicated here in the U.S.

Consider the only nuclear accident that has occurred in the U.S. in the 35-year history of nuclear power, Three Mile Island - the containment dome successfully contained the radioactivity preventing dangerous exposure levels from ever leaving the core, much less reaching the public. And, even though no one was harmed in that accident, the industry learned from the event and implemented even more safeguards in the form of plant equipment and training.