Richard Lahey is an expert in nuclear reactor safety and multiphase flow and heat transfer technology. In the 70s, he was involved with the safety research for the nuclear reactors in Fukushima. Earlier this week, the Washington Post conducted a live Q&A with Lahey, an AIChE Kern Award winner. He answered questions about the reactors, safety, radiation threats, and nuclear energy in the U.S.
Lahey was asked how the nuclear energy industry in the U.S. will be affected by the crisis in Japan, whether plans for new plants will be scrapped, and about the safety of older plants. Here is his response, via the Washington Post:
There will likely be reviews of nuclear power safety technology all over the world--and this is a good thing. I hope it does not hurt the construction of new plants since they have many new features which improve their safety performance. In contrast, i hope that more attention is paid to the life extension of older plants and to spent fuel pool safety; it is long overdue.
Here are some of the questions asked and points that were discussed:
- What are the ways that radiation travels?
- What are the differences between boiling water reactors and pressurized water reactors?
- Is there a threat that plutonium will be released in the Fukushima disaster?
- How did radioactive material get into Japan's drinking water so quickly?
- Is it acceptable to build nuclear energy plants in areas prone to earthquakes and tsunamis?
- What lessons have we learned from the past?
You can read the full Q&A session here.
When asked about terrorist dangers associated with nuclear energy plants in the U.S., his answer was simply a suggestion to read another Washington Post article titled 5 myths about nuclear energy. These myths, according to Washington Post opinion writer Michael A. Levi, are:
- The biggest problem with nuclear energy is safety.
- Nuclear power plants are sitting ducks for terrorists.
- Democrats oppose nuclear energy and Republicans favor it.
- Nuclear power is the key to energy independence.
- Better technology can make nuclear power safe.
Read the Washington Post article on the 5 myths and Michael Levi debunking them.