Nuclear Safety Culture
Nuclear safety culture is, as a rule, referred to as a set of values, attitudes, and behaviors typical of nation leaders and other individuals, and is purposed to ensure safety and protection of people. The essay is aimed to analyze the phenomenon of a nuclear safety culture. Furthermore, information about the explosion at a nuclear power station in Chernobyl will be included as well. The study is purposed to determine, analyze, and evaluate the causes of the most severe nuclear accidents in the world’s history. In other words, the paper intends to estimate if abidance by the rules and principles of nuclear safety culture could help to avoid nuclear catastrophes.
In the sphere of the nuclear power industry, the concept of nuclear safety will always remain the matter of primary importance. In other words, nuclear safety culture is considered to be an overriding priority for nuclear power plants. Despite the fact, that such types of safety as radiological and environmental are important as well, nuclear safety should be treated as the first value adopted by nuclear stations around the globe. It should be stated that nuclear power plants are designed, planned, and projected with the unique purpose to produce electricity on the basis of the nuclear energy usage. Consequently, the aspects of safety and cost are the necessary purposes for the efficient operation of such plants (Alexander, 2004).
The term “safety culture” was established after the analysis of the disastrous accident at a nuclear power plant in Chernobyl. According to the contents of various documents on the topic of safety culture and emergency management, nuclear safety should be perceived as a collective responsibility. At the same time, the phenomenon of the nuclear safety culture should be treated as a leadership responsibility. Experience has proved that leaders of organizations enhance the safety culture through various types of activities. Firstly, leaders, as a rule, stimulate safety culture as far as possible. It is rather important to emphasize, that nuclear safety culture should not be taken for granted. Secondly, leaders assess nuclear culture with an emphasis on popular trends rather than on absolute values. Thirdly, leaders are required to inform other individuals about what constitutes nuclear safety culture. Not only a leader, but every individual, working in the field of nuclear energy has to bear personal responsibility for safety and protection. Personal duties and responsibilities for nuclear safety should be clearly understood and followed with the primary purpose to avoid various kinds of disastrous accidents (Alexander, 2004).
According to the opinions of experts in the sphere of nuclear power, a strong and effective nuclear safety culture is composed of a number of rules and principles. As stated in the first principle, each individual is responsible for nuclear safety. Besides, leaders are obliged to manifest commitment to safety. Moreover, leaders play a significant role in the process of decision-making, as it guaranties safety and protection. Following the rules and regulations of nuclear safety, each individual working in the field, should remember that a nuclear safety has to undergo permanent control and examination (2004).
As reported in the estimations of the researchers, the Chernobyl accident is considered to be one of the most tragic and devastating catastrophes in the nuclear industry. The nuclear power plant is situated on the territory of Ukraine, not far from the borderline with Belarus. It should be stated that the Chernobyl disaster has been one of the most dangerous and devastating accidents in the history of all nations, taking into consideration the costs as well as the casualties (Salge, 2005).
According to the results of the International Nuclear Event Scale, the Chernobyl disaster is one of the two reported as a level 7 event. This scale, often referred to as INES, was established in 1990 in order to ensure prompt and reliable communication of safety-significant data in the cases of nuclear disasters. The nuclear scale is characterized by logarithmic structure that represents seven increasing levels of the power of nuclear accidents. In addition, the nuclear event scale is based on three incident levels as well as four accident levels (Greenwell, 2003).
In the process of analysis of the levels of the nuclear scale, such phenomena as accidents and incidents should be differentiated. First of all, it should be emphasized that the terms “accident” and “incident” are not the same. Furthermore, they designate various processes and phenomena. Despite the fact, that accidents and incidents are considered to be undesirable and unpredicted events, they are characterized by numerous differences. The term “accident” stands by a negative implication that can even lead to the damages and a loss of life. Accident may be understood as a separable and unintended type of incident that results in physical injuries of workers. On the contrary, the term “incident” is often used in the sense of an undesired circumstance or event that has not caused any harm to an individual, but still has a potential to lead to an injury (Greenwell, 2003).
In the course of analysis of the Chernobyl accident, enormous amounts of radioactive particles were released into the atmosphere, spreading on the territories of Western USSR and Europe. The authority of the country provided two official explanations of the main causes of this tragic accident. According to the main idea of the first explanation, the Chernobyl tragedy could have been avoided if the specialists who worked in the nuclear plant had accurately followed all the rules and regulations. The personnel, according to the assumptions of the International Nuclear Safety Group, had violated the major rules and regulations of nuclear safety. The workers on the plant disconnected the system of control and protection. In other words, they absolutely neglected several important safety provisions. The operator of the nuclear plant lacked the skills and knowledge in the field of nuclear reactor physics as well as in the sphere of engineering. In addition, the workers did not have enough experience and knowledge to follow all the necessary requirements and instructions. As a result, the Chernobyl catastrophe may be referred to as an “ideal” example of the consequences of violations of the nuclear safety rules. It is a human factor that resulted in such severe and lethal consequences. The members of INSAG laid the stress on the fact, that negligence and violation of safety culture by the personnel in the nuclear power plant in Chernobyl resulted in the enormous death toll not only on the territory of the former USSR, but in the area of a big part of Europe as well (Jaworowski, 2010).
According to the second theory, that provides explanations of the causes of the tragic event in Chernobyl, numerous operational equipment failures are considered to be the major cause of the accident. Qualitative managing, planning, and construction of the nuclear power plant would have been beneficial for avoiding of the catastrophe in the area of Chernobyl (Taylor, 2011).
As a result, inadequate and irresponsible organizational safety culture as well as engineering failures have proven to be the primary causes of the Chernobyl accident. The phenomenon of a nuclear safety culture was established on the basis of Chernobyl’s experience and should be understood as a complicated, human behavioral process that has to be taken into consideration and discussed. Nuclear safety culture that concerns managers and other employees in the organization is aimed to minimize the risks and to ensure safety to individuals and the environment.