Nuclear Reactor Safety

Nuclear power plants are and will always be vulnerable to accidents resulting in meltdown or other large radiation releases due to human error and worn out or defective parts. Even without an accident or attack, nuclear power plants threaten public health by routinely releasing radiation into the air, soil, and water. Moreover, U.S. nuclear power plants have a concerning record of violating safety regulations while regulators delay, deny, and defer to the financial interests of nuclear plant owners and operators. These failures increase the risk that nuclear reactors pose to the public. Public Citizen has documented safety problems at reactors around the country, and advocates for strengthened regulations, improved enforcement, and greater accountability. View a snapshot of nuclear reactor issues documented at 3 U.S. nuclear reactors.

The Case of Davis-Besse: Second Most Severe Safety VIolation in Nuclear Industry History

On March 7, 2002, a hole in the reactor vessel head at FirstEnergy's Davis-Besse nuclear power plant in Ohio was discovered.

Boric acid corroded a six-inch hole in the reactor vessel head at Davis-Besse, leaving only a 3/8-inch metal cladding as protection against a reactor breach and a possibly devastating chain of events that might have culminated in a reactor meltdown. The corrosion was discovered in March. Just four months earlier, FirstEnergy, responding to a Nuclear Regulatory Commission request, notified the agency that prior visual inspections of the reactor had detected boric acid deposits. But those deposits were not cause for concern, and a more complete inspection could wait until the plant's scheduled refueling months later, the company assured the NRC. The NRC, as is its custom, agreed with industry.

Additional Resources on Davis-Besse:

Corrosive Culture: Lessons from Davis-Besse

Other Side of the Story: Davis-Besse

NRC Issues Second-Most Severe Finding for Safety Violation