With a Molten Salt Reactor, accidents like the Three Mile Island disaster will not happen. Ah yes, I remember it well, March 28, 1979. We lived in South East Pennsylvania at the time, well outside the evacuation zone, but a fellow engineer at work took off, took vacation and stayed at a hotel in western Virginia over the weekend fearing a nuclear explosion. My wife went to a retreat just outside the evacuation zone, and none of them so much as heard of any problem, there never was any evacuation. There was concern though, and a disaster it was indeed with a partial meltdown of the core, rendering the installation a total loss, leaving a big, forever cleanup bill. The cost so far has totaled over 2 billion dollars.
A combination of personnel error, design deficiencies and component failures caused the TMI accident, which permanently changed both the nuclear industry and the NRC. Public fear and distrust increased, NRC’s regulations and oversight became broader and more robust, and management of the plants was scrutinized more carefully. Careful analysis of the accident’s events identified problems and led to permanent and sweeping changes in how NRC regulates its licensees – which, in turn, has reduced the risk to public health and safety.
The side effect of increased regulation is increased cost and delay in construction of new nuclear plants. Eventually, more than 120 reactor orders were cancelled, and the construction of new reactors ground to a halt. Of the 253 nuclear power reactors originally ordered in the United States from 1953 to 2008, 48 percent were canceled.
Another side effect of the TMI accident is fear of trying a different and safer approaches, since they conflict with existing regulations. The next Nuclear power reactor came online in 2016, but it is the same type of boiling water reactor as before, not a Molten Salt Thorium reactor with its inherent radically increased safety.