By Siegfried Evens and Achim Klüppelberg
present authors felt it was desirable to show this positive
experience in the domain of the radiation safety of nuclear power.
This is all the more important in that the view is often expressed
that nuclear power is a dangerous branch of industry and a source of
harmful effects on the personnel, the population, and the
environment. Such unqualified statements cannot bring anything else
but actual harm.“1
scholars in the field of radiation safety discussing the
Chernobyl-type reactor in 1983.
Today we commemorate the 33rd anniversary of the Chernobyl catastrophe. Since that fateful Friday night on 25-26 April 1986, a lot has happened. The world witnessed the thus far biggest nuclear cataclysm in northern Ukraine. The Soviet Union was unable to mitigate the radioactive consequences of the exploded and burning reactor and was frozen in awe to the unknown danger of the invisible power of the atom. Fingers were pointed very quickly towards the personnel as the quickest scapegoat and indeed, many mistakes and transgressions in regard to Soviet regulations were made. Later on, fingers were pointed towards the several institutions and the insufficient design of the reactor. Nuclear engineers in the West assured the general public that such an accident could not happen on the capitalist side of the Iron Curtain. Nevertheless, since Fukushima-Daiichi in 2011 we know for sure that the organisation of nuclear safety by political structures is not so evident as nuclear enthusiasts might want to portray it.
For us, researchers of the
NUCLEARWATERS-project, a day like this reminds us of the possibility
to engage in an investigation of nuclear safety from many different
angles. Chernobyl might not only teach lessons to nuclear engineers
and state ministries, but also to researchers of the social sciences
and the humanities.
What in our
analysis of nuclear safety has been left out so far? What has been
neglected? Have we looked beyond the events? Have we considered the
more structural causes of the accident, such as safety culture,
political decision-making, or the structural complexity of nuclear
technology? Have we dared to look beyond the power plant? To its
environment, and the huge amounts of water flowing into the cooling
system and tipping the balance between energy production and massive
nuclear meltdown? And how can we then contribute and translate that
knowledge towards a better nuclear safety’s discourse?
Apart from being a day of memory, it
was also a regular day in which about 450 reactors produced
electricity worldwide. Chernobyl forces us to remember what can go
wrong if nuclear safety is not tackled with the necessary attention.
In this sense,
let us use the fatal example of Chernobyl, to put substance into our
research in order to contribute to a better discourse on nuclear
E.I./ Il’in, L.A./ Turovskiĭ et al.: Radiation Safety of Atomic
Power Plants in the USSR, in: Atomic Energy (Vol. 54, No.4. April
1983), Luxembourg/ Berlin/ Heidelberg 1983, pp. 290-301, here p.