Continuous improvement at Borssele nuclear power plant
The process at a nuclear power plant can have a major impact if it is not properly controlled. EPZ is fully aware of this fact, and of the special responsibility it entails: to guarantee the best possible protection for people and the environment from the potentially damaging effects of nuclear fission. This responsibility is encapsulated in the concept of nuclear safety.
Risk and safety
The terms ‘risk’ and ‘safety’ lie at the core of our safety culture. At a nuclear power plant, risk comes in the form of the chance of dying or falling ill due to exposure to radiation. We seek to constantly reduce this risk by continually reducing the chances of exposure to radiation.
The industry, the government and scientists all make huge efforts to achieve this, using a whole range of measures: legal, technical, infrastructural and behavioural. The driving force behind this is risk tolerance (how much risk do we want to accept?) and risk perception (how do we view the risks, or how do we perceive safety?). These are dynamic factors, subject to constant change.
For an example of changes in risk tolerance, we need look no further than road safety. Major risks that were regarded as normal in the past are now no longer acceptable. In 1972 there were 3000 road deaths a year. Now there are around 650, even though there is much more traffic on our roads. Reduced risk tolerance has been the driving force behind measures that continually reduce risk.
Just like on our roads, risk tolerance in respect of the nuclear industry has steadily declined continually. This has prompted us to continually improve safety at our nuclear plant. Over the years, society has come to regard safety associated with nuclear plants differently. The need for measures to reduce risk is driven not only by the potential number of victims, but also by the impact on society as a whole. An accident at a nuclear plant may not disrupt society, or lead to unacceptable economic and environmental impacts.
Technological progress has had a positive impact on safety. Advanced sensors and data communication have made road traffic safer. Things like seatbelts, airbags, movement sensors, design changes, GPS and other forms of communication have improved road safety over the past few decades. Because our risk perception has also changed, we no longer feel safe in a car built in the 1960s that does not have these features. In the same way, the safety of the nuclear plant has grown as the public interest in reducing risk has grown.