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Nuclear accident an educational tool

Lauren Hallow / Lantern photographer

The chair of Ohio State’s nuclear program studied Japan’s nuclear accident and told students, administration, scientists and engineers that nuclear safety will come through education.

In the basement of Scott Laboratory on Tuesday, professor Rich Denning, chair of the nuclear program at OSU, prepared a presentation before a room filled to capacity to discuss the nuclear accident in Fukushima, Japan, and the potential nuclear future of the U.S.

On March 11, a 9.0-scale earthquake and 46-foot high tsunami crashed into Japan’s coast. This caused a number of nuclear failures, including an explosion, at a plant near the city of Fukushima.

“The Japanese had a design basis assumption for the maximum earthquake and tsunami the plant could handle,” Denning said. “The magnitude of the earthquake was higher than their design basis and the tsunami was appreciably higher.”

The accident at Fukushima was rated as a major accident or a seven on the international nuclear events scale, the same as the accident at Chernobyl in 1986.

On April 26, 1986, an explosion at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant in the Ukraine released radioactive contamination into the air.

Though the impact of Fukushima may have more societal affects than that of Chernobyl, Denning said there won’t be significant human health risks from this in the future.

Denning said the workers at Fukushima will be monitored and only exposed to 25 rem or units of ionizing radiation, which in turn could cause a 1.5 percent increased chance of cancer over their lifetime.

“It’s (25 rem) five times the amount of rem that the public is allowed to be exposed to in a year,” Denning said. “Forty percent of people get cancer related to other causes in their lifetime; this is a low number compared to that but it still could be significant for some.”

Denning, an expert on nuclear safety and assessments, describes research and education as the key to the future of nuclear expansion and safety in the U.S.

“He was pretty informative,” said Garret Quist, a third-year in mechanical engineering. “There’s nothing I really disagreed with at all, I think it (the PowerPoint) was well within what people already know.”

With Fukushima, Denning expects more studies to be conducted with results similar to the Paul Scherrer Institute’s statistics demonstrating that the safest way to create energy is by going nuclear. Paul Scherrer Institute is a research institute that looks at nuclear reactors and their safety.

“If I had a nuclear plant in my backyard, it wouldn’t be pretty but it would be fine. If it was a coal plant, it would be a disaster. Have you ever seen one of those things?” said Mike Lisa, professor of physics. “I would like if students would think about that in a rational way, because the rest of America won’t, and I would hope someone getting a college education can.”

 

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