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Surprising Science

Predicting Nuclear Accidents

No single analysis can discern which nuclear power plants in the U.S. are most at risk for a disaster, but the probabilities of an accident damaging a reactor core have been roughly penciled out.

Predicting accidents that are extremely unlikely to happen is now the business of American nuclear regulators. “The American people, and the regulators whose job it is to protect them from a catastrophic nuclear accident, are watching the unfolding events at a complex of crippled reactors in Japan with foreboding and an overriding question: Can it happen here? The answer—probably not—from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission is meant to reassure. … ‘We can never say that that could never happen here,’ said Anthony R. Pietrangelo, senior vice president and chief nuclear officer at the Nuclear Energy Institute.”


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