Automated Systems Can Stop Accidents in Nuclear Plants

By Nancy Bartels

Jun 18, 2014

Béla Lipták, process automation expert and editor of the Instrument Engineers' Handbook, made a rare Midwestern appearance on May 22 at the ISA Will-Page Section's technical meeting at Harrah's Casino in Joliet, Illinois. He talked about "Fukushima Failures and the Next Generation of Nuclear Power Plants" to close to 70 attendees and described how automatic controls could have prevented recent nuclear plant disasters and can prevent future accidents.

"None of the three accidents at Three Mile Island, Chernobyl and Fukushima would have occurred if those plants had been designed and run with help from process control people," says Lipták.

Lipták stressed that Three Mile Island, Chernobyl and Fukushima were caused by design flaws, such as having only single containment at Chernobyl, and bad operator actions, such as putting water into the instrument air system at Three Mile Island. Likewise, backup cooling and safety devices are often turned off, and manual systems don't have alerts and alarms.
Much of Lipták's investigation and analysis of nuclear power plant shortcomings and possible accident-prevention strategies will be published in his upcoming ISA book, The Next Fukushima: Automation Can Prevent It!