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Managing Nuclear Power on a Dynamic Earth

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We probably worry more about the safety of nuclear power plants than any other major pieces of our technological infrastructure. There are over 500 of them operating or under construction around the world and almost as many planned or proposed, with numerous other facilities that are involved in the management of the nuclear fuel cycle. Many of them are on the coast and, in several countries, are in locations where tectonic hazard is a central concern. The disaster at Fukushima brought this home to everyone and the subsequent coverage has dwarfed concerns about the aftermath of the tsunami that caused it.

In this lecture, we took a look at what scientists are doing to pinpoint and assess tectonic hazards to nuclear facilities worldwide. We visited nuclear power plants that have had to respond to actual or potential hazards from nearby volcanoes, active faults and tsunamis, and looked at the stories behind them – some of which stretch back many decades.

We looked at the problems Japan’s energy supply is facing today as its nuclear regulatory authorities try to reassess seismic hazards at power plants across the country.

Then, looking thousands of years into the future, we looked at what scientists are doing to evaluate tectonic hazards to the deeply buried radioactive wastes from these power plants – along with the possible deep impacts of Earth’s next ice age. In tracing these stories, we visited many parts of our planet, including California, India, Japan, Nevada, the Philippines, Sweden and our own UK coastline.

Speaker: Neil Chapman

Professor Neil A. Chapman has worked for over 35 years in the field of radioactive waste management worldwide. He has a geology degree from the University of Durham and a PhD in experimental petrology from the University of Edinburgh.

In the 1980s he managed the Fluid Processes Research Group of the British Geological Survey. Subsequently he worked with QuantiSci UK and is now a Partner in MCM Consulting, Switzerland and part-time Research Professor in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering at the University of Sheffield. He is also Vice President of Arius, the Association for Regional and International Underground Storage, looking in particular at shared European solutions for radioactive wastes.

He is working with various agencies in Japan on tectonic hazards to nuclear facilities and is geological consultant to nuclear regulatory authorities in Finland and Sweden. He is also chairman of the Technical Advisory panel for the Radioactive Waste Management Directorate of the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority. In 2010, he was awarded the James Watt Medal of the Institution of Civil Engineers. He is currently a member of Council of the Geological Society.

Managing Nuclear Power on a Dynamic Earth

Managing Nuclear Power

Event Details

Date: 21 May 2014

Venue: The Geological Society, Burlington House, London

Speaker: Neil Chapman
(MCM Consulting, Switzerland and the University of Sheffield, UK)


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Naomi Newbold
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