Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Pitt Hosts Discussion On Nuclear Dangers in Japan

In the wake of the nuclear emergency at Japan's Fukushima Daiichi power plant following last week's earthquake and tsunami, a panel of nuclear and structural engineers this evening will discuss the condition of the Japanese power plant as well as the state of America’s power plants.

John Metzger, director of the Nuclear Engineering Department at Pitt which is hosting the event, says the purpose is to help inform and encourage discussion about the safety of nuclear power. He says the event will open with an explanation and proceed to a panel of three men who work in the field of nuclear technology.

Metzger wants to promote the idea that nuclear technology is one of the safest industries in the world, and that no one could plan for a disaster of last week’s magnitude. Metzger says America’s nuclear facilities are considered “disaster proof” for things like earthquakes and hurricanes.

“The plants in the United States, not only are the plants themselves designed that way, but the people like Westinghouse and GE, this is all integrated into their design and it’s something that the [Nuclear Regulatory Commission] polices and the industry itself polices,” Metzger says.

Metzger says you can’t judge a nuclear incident very harshly when the disaster that caused it was unfathomable.

“I think that the bottom line is that this incident has to be taken in context to the disaster but I also want to emphasize that the culture of safety in the nuclear industry I believe the nuclear industry will learn from this and there will be some modifications accordingly.”

The panel discussion will be held this evening at 6:15 in Pitt’s Benedum Hall, Room 157. Panelists include structural engineer, Kent Harries; reactor operator at the Beaver Valley Power Station, David Haser; and a member of Westinghouse Electric's operations department, David Helling. All three are adjunct professors at the University.

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