Nuclear power regulators are rethinking their approach to safety after recent data releases showed that post-9/11 measures were often insufficient.

Implementing a “safety culture” of constant measurement and improvement has been central to the industry’s safety progress since the now minor-seeming accident at Three Mile Island, which resulted in a rule-making binge.

In this Breaking Energy podcast, Margaret Ryan discusses the industry’s approach to safety today, and how it will change in light of the ongoing disaster at Fukushima in Japan.

She discusses a “fault tree” approach that is used to identify unexpected weak points, including the danger of a serious accident at New York’s Indian Point nuclear plant that was revealed by using those fault trees.

One of the biggest outstanding issues in upgrading safety at US nuclear plants is cost. As Ryan notes on this podcast, safety isn’t cheap and it is consumers who will end up paying.

Picture: Residents who lived within a 20km area of a stricken nuclear power plant hold flower bouquets to offer prayers for victims of the March 11 earthquake and tsunami, in Namie, Fukushima prefecture on May 26, 2011. The residents were returning home briefly after the Japanese government imposed the no-entry zone on April 21, banning residents of areas within the 20-km radius from the Fukushima nuclear plant. AFP PHOTO / JIJI PRESS AFP PHOTO / JIJI PRESS (Photo credit should read JIJI PRESS/AFP/Getty Images)