Nuclear Plant Control Room Simulator: Learning to Avoid Future Disasters

BY Jenny Marder  March 18, 2011 at 5:34 PM EDT



The massive earthquake in Japan knocked out the power grid around the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant, then its backup generators failed amid the ensuing tsunami. Then came the explosions, radiation emissions and dangerously hot nuclear fuel rods and nuclear waste.

New challenges seem to present themselves every hour at the crippled nuclear plant, where designers thought they had prepared for the worst-case scenario, but the past week’s events have proven to be a combination of disasters magnitudes worse than they’d envisioned.

Amid Japan’s escalating crisis, eyes have turned toward nuclear power plants elsewhere in the world to make sure to avert similar crises.

Science correspondent Miles O’Brien is working on a segment on nuclear safety, and we caught up with him as he visited a simulated nuclear plant control room at the Westinghouse Electric Company headquarters near Pittsburgh.