Research review shows that nuclear safety is valued too low

February 3, 2017, University of Bristol

New research has shown that the benchmark used by the Office for Nuclear Regulation for judging how much should be spent on nuclear safety has no basis in evidence and places insufficient value on human life. The review suggests it may need to be ten times higher - between £16 million and £22 million per life saved.

The research review led by Professor Philip Thomas from the University of Bristol and Dr Ian Waddington and published in the journal Nuclear Future, examined the evidence for the "value of a prevented fatality" (VPF) currently used as a safety guideline by the Office of Nuclear Regulation, the Health and Safety Executive and numerous Government departments.

The VPF figure of £1.83 million (published in July 2016) emerged from a 20-year-old small-scale opinion survey of 167 people and its interpretation method has recently been shown to be too flawed to be credible.

The VPF study team came up with the current UK figure after setting aside the results of their first opinion survey, but a recent re-analysis has shown that the discarded valuations were actually entirely rational and understandable and the VPF study team rejected the wrong survey. An up-to-date interpretation of the first would suggest that the VPF should be set about ten times higher than at present, at between £16 million and £22 million per life saved.

The Judgement- or J-value, a new method pioneered by Professor Thomas that assesses how much should be spent to protect human life and the environment that has recently been validated against pan-national data, would value life about four times higher, closer to the value used by the US Department of Transportation ($9.1 million in 2012).

Philip Thomas, Professor of Risk Management in the Department of Civil Engineering, said: "The Office of Nuclear Regulation and other national bodies clearly have a problem with how they should assess the right level of expenditure to protect people from nuclear and other accidents.

"It is difficult to see how any safety case presented from now on that relies in any way upon the UK VPF, whether on the roads, the railways or in the nuclear industry, such as the new nuclear power station at Hinkley Point C in Somerset, could stand up to test in court. More modern and accurate methods exist, but the regulators are not using them."

In the past, the Rail Safety and Standards Board (RSSB) asked some members of the VPF team to investigate how much people wanted to spend to counter railway accidents with multiple fatalities. The team reported their opinion surveys as showing no appetite for extra expenditure to guard against rail accidents causing many deaths. However, the methods used by the RSSB study team were recently proved to be systematically biased against anyone wanting more to be spent against deaths in large accidents, and so they should not have been used. Consequently RSSB's recommendation to cut expenditure against big rail accidents by 66 per cent has not been justified.

Explore further: Biased statistic leads to less spending for severe railway accidents

More information: "What is the value of life? A review of the value of a prevented fatality used by regulators and others in the UK" by Philip Thomas and Ian Waddington published in Nuclear Future.

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1.5 / 5 (8) Feb 03, 2017
Nuclear technology has turned out to be a Faustian Bargain.

We are leaving most of the cost to our kids and grandkids and their grandkids, . . essentially forever.

What kind of society does that?
3.4 / 5 (5) Feb 03, 2017
Articles like this leave me at a loss for words. While I agree that the "price on human life" should be higher, I can't fathom how anyone could arrive at the conclusion that the cost of nuclear regulations, vs. their benefits, works out to ~$2 million. The nuclear industry may have such a figure published somewhere (on a shelf, gathering dust), but it is clear that the monetary figure is never used.

Even a cursory evaluation shows that the overall costs of nuclear regulations (and component fab QA requirements), which are mainly focused on meltdown prevention, work out to tens of billion dollars per life saved. Given what we now know from Fukushima, i.e., that even a worst-case meltdown of 3 large reactors causes little if any loss of life, one could argue that the cost of nuclear regulations is ~infinite.
3 / 5 (5) Feb 03, 2017
Wind and solar are a high-cost placebo that is not able to treat the climate change problem.
Carbon-free nuclear power is the safest energy source in the world and the only that is proven to be able to curb CO2 emissions in a fast way.
1.5 / 5 (8) Feb 03, 2017
Jim, they need workers at Fukushima! Forty years of guaranteed work!

And did you forget how many died or had shortened lives from Chernobyl? Why should we trust you again?
3 / 5 (4) Feb 03, 2017
workers at Fukushima
fatalities at Fukushima = zero
"In England, there were 163 wind turbine accidents that killed 14 people in 2011."
1 / 5 (7) Feb 04, 2017
New problems at Fukuishima. They now expect the $190,000,000,000 cost of "cleaning it up" will rise substantially.


5 / 5 (3) Feb 04, 2017
New problems at Fukushima.
"Radioactive Godzilla found stalking the streets of Fukushima"
It's the end of world, shut down all reliable sources of carbon-free energy and replace them by intermittent renewables backed up by coal as Germany did.
"Germany To Open Yet Another New Coal Power Plant" - Jan 19, 2017
"German coal, gas plant output at 5-year high in January" - 3 Feb 2017
"Naturally Occurring Radioactive Materials in Coals and Coal Combustion Residuals in the United States"
1 / 5 (6) Feb 04, 2017
Well, well, what is the news from Fukushima today?

Oh, no, . . .

http://www.asahi....064.html - "Lethal dose in one mintute"

4 / 5 (4) Feb 04, 2017
news from Fukushima today
"No, radiation levels at Fukushima Daiichi are not rising" - February 4th, 2017
But it does not matter, Germany is already opening more coal power plants to keep lights on when sun is not shinning or wind is not blowing, according to Eco-nuts it is good for climate change.

1 / 5 (6) Feb 04, 2017
They're not?

They have always been that high?

A lethal dose in one minute?

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