Abstract: Since the dawn of the Atomic Age, nuclear experts have confronted a deceptively simple question: When is a reactor “safe enough” to adequately protect the public? And, for 70 years, they have pursued a deceptively simple answer that quantified the probability of a major reactor accident. In his presentation, Tom Wellock will discuss the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission’s decision to develop the controversial Reactor Safety Study, the world’s first Probabilistic Risk Assessment (PRA), and its influence on safety regulation.
Biography: Thomas Wellock is the historian at the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission. He is the author of Safe Enough? A History of Nuclear Power and Accident Risk (University of California Press, 2021) and two other books on the history of nuclear power and environmentalism. He was also a professor of U.S. history, earned his Ph.D. in history from the University of California, Berkeley, and, prior to his midlife crisis, worked as a reactor test engineer at the Electric Boat Shipyard in Groton, CT and a systems engineer at the Davis-Besse nuclear power station near Toledo, OH.