Originally Posted by twaddle
Yes, I'm sure that's the goal. But computer geeks know that only the most trivial algorithms can be made provably correct. So, I'm fairly sure there's always a weak link in the chain. And we obviously have already seen human error contribute to catastrophic failure in commercial nukes, so it's not just an academic concern.
Paradoxically, the more dangerous something is, the safer it can become.
People get scared by the extreme dangers, so everything about it is treated with respect, and everything gets attention to detail. Multiple fail safe/secure mechanisms as others have said.
You are right, it is all done by humans, and we do fail. However, rigorously planned and fully tested software can be amazingly robust. When is the last time a cash register, for example, failed to add up the bill correctly (assuming the inputs were good)? Use an ATM transaction if you want a more complex example.
Layer several levels of that protection and you can get very good indeed. Look at all the well-designed (not Chernobyl) nukes running in Europe and Japan w/o incident (that I am aware of). We knew Chernobyl was a bad design to begin with, it never should have been built (and none were, outside of USSR). And we have learned from TMI that we need more standardized designs.
If every coal mine disaster had the potential to kill 10,000,000 people, rather than a few poor miners, coal mines would be very safe indeed, I suspect.
In the mean time, >40,000 people die each year
in the US in car accidents. Many more are permanently or seriously injured. Yet, I am not aware of a 'No-Transportation' concert series?
A long list of popular musicians that have been killed in car/plane accidents pops into my head, I don't even need to go to wiki for that.
Can't think of a single one killed by a nuke power plant, ever.
I wish they would stick to singing/playing/song-writing/entertaining. Musicians, on average, really suck at risk assessment and statistics. They probably wouldn't have tried to become famous if they understood the odds