Vanderbilt Law Review


Harold P. Green

First Page



Nuclear reactors are devices for creating and controlling nuclear chain reactions. Reactors come in many sizes and shapes and have various uses. The most dramatic and probably the most important use of reactors from the economic standpoint is to provide power in the form of electricity or heat. Some such power reactors may be stationary; others may be mobile, e.g., those which exist to provide propulsive force and hence move from place to place with their vehicle. Other reactors may be used for various industrial purposes such as for the testing of materials. Still other reactors are used primarily for educational and research purposes.

All reactors have safety implications in the sense that radiation is incident to their operation. This means that considerable care must be taken in operation of the reactor to assure that personnel working on or with the reactor are not exposed to dangerous radiation. Such precautions are essentially a matter of sound operating and administrative procedures. Although this phase of reactor safety is extremely important from the standpoint of legal considerations and the public welfare, it is of secondary importance. Of primary concern are the safety implications of reactor operations to the external environment and particularly to those members of society who have not voluntarily assumed the risk of working in proximity to the reactor.

This latter problem relates essentially to the possibility that operation of a reactor may give rise to consequences adversely affecting the health and safety of the general public. Such consequences might arise in the case of normal operation of a reactor if proper safeguards are not taken.