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The Tokaimura Accident

Nuclear Energy and Reactor Safety


Michael E. Ryan
Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering
University at Buffalo


The 1999 accident at the Tokaimura nuclear fuel processing plant near Tokyo is the context for a student discussion on nuclear power and the consequences of a nuclear accident. This particular accident was chosen because of the associated dramatic aftermath. Although the chemical and nuclear industries are indeed very safe, the potential for serious consequences as a result of an accident is especially significant. The case covers issues ranging from chemical process safety to risk management of chemical industries to the ethical responsibilities of the chemical engineer. The activity was developed for use in a chemical engineering laboratory, unit operations, or chemical plant design course in order to introduce the subject of hazard identification and process safety.


  • To describe the nature of accidents and provide an accurate perspective of chemical process safety.
  • To illustrate the importance of chemical process safety including hazard evaluation and loss prevention.
  • To introduce risk assessment and risk management as related to the chemical process industries.
  • To discuss industrial hygiene and chemical toxicology.
  • To introduce emergency planning and response.
  • To examine flowsheet review and incident investigation.
  • To describe the professional and ethical responsibilities of the chemical engineer.


nuclear power; uranium; plutonium; industrial accident; fission; JCO; Fukushima; criticality; radiation

Topical Areas

Regulatory issues

Educational Level

Undergraduate lower division, Undergraduate upper division



Type / Methods

Directed, Discussion, Interrupted



Subject Headings

Engineering (General)  |   Industrial Engineering  |  

Date Posted


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