The safety of nuclear power plants has been of great importance from the very beginning of the development of nuclear reactors. But it has become the focus of the international nuclear community since the Chernobyl accident inl986. Modern standards of nuclear safety ensure reliable operation of all systems at any plant dealing with radioactive materials.
Though the strict safety measures are provided at any nuclear installation, there are some difficulties that have to be faced. There is still a popular fear in the public mind associated with the radiation. The tragic consequences of the most serious reactor malfunctions and accidents are the main reasons for this.
The most widely discussed type of a reactor malfunction is the loss- of-coolant accident (LOCA). A typical LOCA means a pipe leak, which results in sudden depressurization of the pressure reactor vessel. The water begins to boil, so it makes the core heat up instead of cooling. This can cause the core melting. The destroyed core is able to release a catastrophic amount of radioactive products into the biosphere.
Thus, the essence of reactor safety is to protect the environment from the dispersal of radioactivity. The key to safer nuclear power is a more efficient emergency core-cooling system (ECCS) and a more reliable containment building.
There are some other problems associated with the reactor safety. They are human errors in critical situations and the disposal of nuclear waste.