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January 9, 1987

The Safety of Nuclear Power Plants in the United States-Reply

Author Affiliations

City University of New York Medical School

City University of New York Medical School

JAMA. 1987;257(2):191. doi:10.1001/jama.1987.03390020056024

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In Reply.—  Drs Bari and Kouts are quite correct in identifying important differences between the containment structure, other safety systems, and the fundamental design of the Chernobyl reactor and those in commercial US light water reactors. The point of my comments about these aspects of Chernobyl was that—in contrast to early US press reports that no containment or other safety systems were present—the reactor did have containment, inert shielding, and pressure-suppression features.From the point of view of US physicians concerned about public health and safety in this country, the key question is not whether we might experience an accident developing precisely as that at Chernobyl did—something that is very unlikely. It is, instead, whether the final common pathway at Chernobyl—the mixing of molten nuclear reactor fuel with water or concrete, creating steam and hydrogen of tremendous explosive force—could occur in any US reactors and breach their containments. On this