Thursday, 29 September 2011

Redundant indication

Some key components of training in any nuclear energy facility I've ever been in (and principal lessons learned from the Three Mile Island accident) are the concepts of redundant indication, conservative decision making and maintaining a questioning attitude.

Nuclear Energy Station - Control Console and Panels

Redundant Indication
Nuclear Operators will seek multiple, independent sources of information before taking action. This is basic stuff, nuclear operations 101. One of the first simulator scenarios of any training program:
  • Display a false indication on a big, bright meter directly in front of the operator's face and watch the control room team zoom in on this (fake) problem, while some other (real) problem develops in some less conspicuous area of the panel or console.
The objective? Develop operators who constantly verify the equipment status via multiple readings while maintaining the big picture of the integrated plant. Any current or ex-operator will be yawning if they haven't already moved on to another webpage.

So today, a big, red light went on before me... but this one's not the first. Compare my quote from James Hansen's book 'Storms of My Grandchildren' found in this post with the information found in this press release from the World Health Organization. Some quotes from the latter:
"WHO estimates more than 2 million people die every year from breathing in tiny particles present in indoor and outdoor air pollution."
"In both developed and developing countries, the largest contributors to urban outdoor air pollution include motor transport, small-scale manufacturers and other industries, burning of biomass and coal for cooking and heating, as well as coal-fired power plants. Residential wood and coal burning for space heating is an important contributor to air pollution, especially in rural areas during colder months."
2 million gone per year. Roughly the population of Australia, dead every decade. And this is independent from the treats stemming from Climate Change.
Just this year: tens of $billions lost as a result of the Queensland floods; a budget impasse in America threatens to shut their government down, in part due to repeated, weather related, disaster relief expenses; icons of environmental science continue their calls for the immediate and significant reduction of fossil fuel emissions... For naught but the price of 2 million+ per year.


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