Historical landmark safety events in the nuclear power industry often lead to fear and debate about the long-term viability of this form of producing energy. Globally publicised crises, such as those at Three Mile Island, Chernobyl and Fukushima Daiichi, fuel the critics of the nuclear industry who oppose this form of energy production as fundamentally dangerous, costly, and environmentally unsound.
Experts, however, maintain that the opposite is true; nuclear energy is clean, economical and safe, and continues to be an established commercial enterprise for electrical energy production across the globe that will likely continue to grow in the coming decades.
Due to inherent risks in this specialised domain, nuclear energy production must be heavily regulated to prevent incident and error. In nuclear, as in many high-reliability industries, errors equal serious, sometimes catastrophic, consequences. The target standard is to be ‘error free’, and faults need to be addressed quickly to prevent potential fall-out. In theory, this makes perfect sense, but it begs a question that is difficult to answer:
Can nuclear power ever be truly ‘error free’ as long as people are involved?