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To most of us, nuclear is an all-or-nothing word. Nuclear w


To most of us, nuclear is an all-or-nothing word. Nuclear war is unthinkable. Nuclear weapons must never be used. Nuclear power plants must be perfectly safe. (1)
The crisis in Japan is teaching us that this isn’t true. Nuclear safety, like nuclear doom, is never certain. Too many things can go wrong. And then, just when catastrophe seems inevitable, things can go right. (2) We can’t anticipate or prevent every scenario. But we can give ourselves a fighting chance.
(3) "Everything that could go wrong did," I wrote. Hours later, and explosion damaged one of the containers. Now officials say a second container may have ruptured. Take that as a corollary to Murphy’s Law. (4)
No one could have predicted every misfortune that hit this plant. (5) An explosion at one reactor knocked out four of five pumps at another. A valve malfunction blocked water from being pumped into one of the reactors. Gauges failed. Instrument panels failed. A fire erupted in a spent-fuel storage pool in a reactor that had been offline for months.
We don’t know how this story will turn out. And that’s the point. Failure is an option. So is success.(3) Two days ago, I spoke highly of the reactor containment at the Fukushima Daiichi (福岛) power plant for surviving the earthquake and tsunami that knocked out their primary and backup cooling system.


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