Focus on the disaster of Fukushima, Daichi Nuclear Powerplant.
OPTION #1: ETHICAL DIMENSIONS OF RISK AND SAFETY:
Analyze some of the decisions that
had to be made in the NOVA video on the Nuclear Meltdown in Fukushima, assigned
in Weeks 5 – 6 of this course, in terms of concepts of risk (such as
risk/benefit analysis, failure modes, safe exits, factors of safety, margins of
safety, hazard impact, etc.) and you may (but it is not required) include their
relationship to utilitarianism (whenever applicable). Make sure that you apply enough of these
concepts to details of the case at hand.
Questions of fault do not alone
settle the question as to how to maintain safety in nuclear power plants but
might just complicate it. Even if a
meltdown is not the fault of the company, is there a way that such disasters
can be prevented, and, if not, how safe is nuclear power for generating
electricity – include details about 4th generation reactors, too? At the same time, you need to consider design
issues with third generation reactors as compared to fourth generation
reactors, as well as in terms of where various equipment for redundancies was
placed in the plant (compare Daichi and Daini).
Lastly, you might want to consider what type of data is used in
risk/benefit analysis, given that climate change is occurring and historical
data on climate might not predict well future events.
Also include a discussion of the
public’s response to some of the risks involved, and any regulatory agency’s (or
government) response to the risks involved, drawing upon the Martin text,
chapter 5, and the Harris article on electronic reserves (or the additional
power points that I just added under the menu item under the menu item for
“Weeks 5 & 6”. Many students did
not show any evidence of having read the material by Charles Harris on course
reserves, which is required for this option.
It is NOT sufficient to provide your own opinion on these different
approaches, but you must also pay attention to some of the assigned
readings. You may (but it is not
required) include the relationship of informed consent to Kant’s ethics, when
Lastly, take a position on what
should have been done in respect to some of these decisions (in the past) or
should be done in the future (and what role engineers might or might not play
in this), and provide an argument, in relation to your risk analysis, taking
into consideration perspectives of the public and regulatory agencies (or
government), to support your position:
for instance, what should be done in the future to insure safety of
nuclear reactors in Japan (or generally or to insure safe electricity
generation generally)? What role should
regulatory agencies play? Should the
public’s response also be taken into consideration, and, if so, how? What if the public itself is divided on the
issue? It is here that you should also
be taking into consideration the larger issue of nuclear power.
Video must be referred to:
Articles must be used:
“Ethics in Engineering”, 5th edition
(Edition is important), Edited by Qin Zhu, Mike W. Martin, and Roland
Schinzinger, 2022, McGraw Hill, ISBN: 978-1-264-27076-7 (looseleaf edition),
MHID: 1-264-27076-3 (loose leaf edition) .Martin 5, Ch. 5 “Safety, Risk, and Design” (summarized in attached Powerpoints)
We must consider many facets when evaluating the safety and danger of a nuclear power plant. The most significant risk involved with constructing a nuclear power plant is the effect on the local population, including the nature surrounding it, in the event of catastrophic failure. An example of this is the Daichi and Daini plants in Fukushima, Japan. The engineers heading the project considered the risk of having a power plant near the ocean acceptable and deemed their barriers sufficient enough to stave off the sea. They came to this conclusion thanks to their version of risk-benefit analysis. They also determined that the usefulness of a large amount of electrical energy outweighed the risk of keeping the power plants next to civilian residents. They didn’t consider that the waves from a tsunami would breach the sea wall and cause catastrophic damage to the reactors. They also did not anticipate that all the failsafe methods built into the system would fail. The engineers believed they had an acceptable margin of safety and sufficient procedures and systems to prevent their eventual catastrophic failure.
When evaluating the danger and security of a nuclear power plant, one must consider the site location, protection from the elements and other external forces, the effect on the environment, and the possibility of a mechanical or system failure. These evaluations are valid for any power plant, particularly nuclear power plants, as any issue results in disastrous repercussions. Their extreme power output is only overshadowed by their destructive properties when neglected. While maintaining a nuclear power plant, making sure the fuel rods do not overheat is imperative. The overheating of fuel rods can lead to a domino effect that could release deadly radioactivity. To ensure an excellent margin of safety, we must create multiple backup systems of backup systems to guarantee the security of the nuclear fuel rods. There must be enough methods to avoid a possible “elephant foot, ” coined from the catastrophic Chornobyl failure. It is a large radioactive, boiling, heavy mass that melts through virtually anything in its way. When viewing the possibility of an “elephant’s foot,” we understand the reason for the crazy amount of backup systems to ensure the chance never arises. This evaluation is the job of an engineer; to consider all the possible outcomes when creating and maximizing safety with minimal suffering to efficiency.
The public does not have knowledge of nuclear reactor functions or the many safety regulations and systems in place to protect them. In contrast, an engineer sees risk and the probability and extent of the harm that a design failure could cause. The general public generally acts primarily in their self-interest to decide whether the risk is acceptable. An engineer evaluates risk based on many factors. In self-interest, individuals in the general public can be swayed additionally by factors than just the probability and stringency of harm. These factors manifest themselves within human greed and typically take the form of monetary gain. We see examples of this mentioned in “Engineering Ethics Concepts and Cases,” where duplicating a worker’s wages may encourage them to take up to eight times the risk. The “worker’s double pay” phenomenon is due to the general public not knowing the possible risk and not actively being taught the risk for compliance. We discussed the difference between the public and the engineer; however, there is still the role of the government risk regulator.
A risk regulator decides to restrain only when there is a direct link between material or process and a negative effect, for example, a workplace injury. Yet, they can also say that any possible risk can be withdrawn or reduced by including present technology. When comparing the government risk regulator to how an engineer sees risk and the public considers risk, the regulator has the most simple definition of unacceptable risk. A risk regulator can individually choose risks based on feelings and develop many baseless reasons. Yet, this implies that if the risk regulator decides to fix all risks, they will spend more money risking removing more and more insignificant risks. This microscopic lens disregards the potential issues in the macro lens that said funding could be valuable to eliminate a more significant threat. But in a more broad view, both the regulator and the engineer have the same goal in mind when assessing risk, to keep the general public as safe as is feasible with the resources they possess at the time. Even if the practices of one are less accurate than the other.
Hi Kahlid, Your discussion of the case at hand is very good, but it seems that what you say is much too close to what Ryan Brooks says, and Ryan wrote his post earlier than you did. Therefore, you must be careful that your Essay #1 is your own work, and that you cite anybody else’s post that influenced what you say, even if you do not directly quote it. You have been penalized because of this all too close similarity. Although you also did a good job of applying some of the concepts from this unit on the ethical dimensions of safety and risk, it also bears an all too close similarity to Ryan Brooks’ post. However, in your Essay #1, you should define all your terms, and include also a definition of safety and of risk, by drawing upon the assigned readings for this unit. You should also develop your discussion of the case at hand in a little more detail, perhaps addressing location of the plant and the diesel generators in more detail, among other details of SCRAMs, etc..
You also earned some credit for attempting to include a discussion of the public’s approach to risk and safety and the regulator’s approach to risk and safety. However, this discussion will need revision and expansion for your Essay #1, because you need to also draw upon the article on course reserves by Charles Harris, and/or the additional power points that I have posted under the menu item for “Weeks 5 & 6” that draw upon Charles Harris as regards safety and risk, to address what the concerns are of the public and of regulators. Although you did include one concern of the public, you did not include other concerns of the public, as addressed by Charles Harris. Your discussion of the concerns of regulators shows almost no evidence of having learned anything from the article by Charles Harris, and seems to be based only upon your personal perception. What are the main concerns of regulators that are a little different than those of engineers, although both rely upon risk/benefit analyses. Moreover, you need to discuss, in your Essay #1, how the public and the government responded in the case at hand. The required article from New Yorker magazine, for which links can be found under the menu item for “Weeks 5 & 6”, includes some of the Japanese public’s responses to this disaster, as well as some of the government’s responses. Thus, you should be addressing whether or not the approaches delineated in the Harris article are reflected in the actual responses of the public and the government in this case at hand. The New Yorker article also addresses the future of nuclear power to some extent. In your Essay #1, you will need to build an argument as to what safety measures should be taken, by engineers, companies, regulators, or anyone else, to help prevent disasters of this sort, and, in doing this, you may address the future of nuclear power more generally, by drawing upon the assigned article on 4th generation nuclear reactors (how safe are they?) or the movie streamed on course reserves, “Pandora’s Promise”.. All required articles for this unit are accessible through Bb Learn, but some of the optional articles are presently not accessible, I might try to copy some of the latter into word documents in the next couple of days.