Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Oil and Nuclear – Again

We saw an essay on Clean Skies that suggests the oil industry could learn from the nuclear industry, in particular, that the oil industry should adopt international standards of practice similar to the nuclear industry’s response to Chernobyl. We totally agree. The one point we would add is that the single most important thing the oil industry could learn from nuclear is the significance of establishing and maintaining an adequate safety culture. Safety culture is the sine qua non of safe, profitable operations in any high-hazard business.

And safety culture has to be real. Beleaguered executives proclaiming that safety is number are simply not convincing when equipment and methods haven’t been tested (or don’t work), and profit has obviously been driving decision-making.

We want to remind the nuclear industry that they are one significant incident away from an even worse political and public relation disaster. As we have said before, the oil industry is not as tightly interwoven in the public mind as nuclear; to date, BP is being vilified in Washington and in the press, but the damage to other companies has been incidental, a temporary stop in issuing drilling permits. The nuclear industry would not get off so relatively easy if an incident of similar magnitude were to occur in their bailiwick.

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