“[What’s] not so well-appreciated is you need a well-trained force of technical people running the reactor,” explains Stanford nuclear security expert Rodney Ewing. “If their work is disrupted, if they’re kept captive, or if they’re not allowed to rest, as was the case at Chernobyl, that is a major concern."
So-called small modular reactors are promoted as less expensive and cumbersome than conventional light-water reactors. Research led by former postdoctoral scholar Lindsay Krall with Stanford nuclear security expert Rodney Ewing suggests the volume and chemistry of the waste they produce may pose safety challenges.
Small modular reactors, long touted as the future of nuclear energy, will actually generate more radioactive waste than conventional nuclear power plants, according to research from Stanford and the University of British Columbia.
"Clearly, a nuclear reactor is not a nuclear bomb – reactors are designed to avoid runaway chain reactions," Stanford nuclear security expert Rod Ewing writes in an op-ed. But there are three vulnerabilities that can have serious consequences, he explains.
“We are in the middle of a war with great devastation and human suffering and deaths and adding a nuclear event – even if it is minor releases of radioactivity – to the present situation, that is really a heavy burden,” says Stanford Earth professor Rod Ewing.
A decade after a powerful earthquake and tsunami set off the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear meltdown in Japan, Stanford experts discuss revelations about radiation from the disaster, advances in earthquake science related to the event and how its devastating impact has influenced strategies for tsunami defense and local warning systems.
“In some cases, as we become more sophisticated, we’ve lost the ability to see what’s most obvious,” said Rod Ewing, Frank Stanton Professor in Nuclear Security at Stanford. “You calculate the probability of an event against the expense – and often cost is the driver.”
"It's not a surprise that no one would support Yucca," says Stanford's Rodney Ewing, who led a 2018 study that recommended moving responsibility for disposing of nuclear waste to an independent nonprofit corporation.
Nuclear security expert Rod Ewing discusses new recommendations for solving the U.S. nuclear waste problem, why conventional risk assessments don’t go far enough and what makes this challenge more difficult than putting a man on the moon.