With the ongoing crisis at the Fukushima plant fueling debate over the dangers of nuclear power, scientists at the Max Planck Institute for Chemistry have conducted a study that shows traditional estimates for nuclear-related catastrophes are off by a factor of over 200. The study indicates that, given the operating hours of civil nuclear power facilities and the number of meltdowns that have occurred, the nuclear power industry can expect to have a major catastrophic event once every 10-20 years.
If this decade-or-two pattern of disasters wasn't grim enough, the study also concluded that half of all cesium-137 released from such events would spread 1,000 kilometers or more from the initial site of the accident, meaning areas like Western Europe and the Eastern United States are likely to be contaminated by nuclear fallout once every 50 years.
This news follows disturbing reports of questionable methods being taken at Fukushima's still-dangerous nuclear reactors, and higher-than-reported levels of radioactive releases found to have been released from the initial incident. In the high-stakes game of nuclear energy production, engineering and construction experts have a growing responsibility to come up with lasting, safe solutions for the turbulent industry.