Tuesday, March 15, 2011

General Electric-designed reactors in Fukushima have 23 sisters in U.S

Many of the reactors in Japan were designed by General Electric (a major nuclear plant vendor) and widely built across the U.S. 23 of the 104 nuclear plants in the U.S. are GE boiling-water reactors with GE's Mark I systems for containing radioactivity. They are in Alabama, Georgia, Illinois, Iowa, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Vermont.

They quote GE Hitachi Nuclear saying: "The BWR Mark 1 reactor is the industry’s workhorse with a proven track record of safety and reliability for more than 40 years. Today, there are 32 BWR Mark 1 reactors operating as designed worldwide. There has never been a breach of a Mark 1 containment system."

GE and the nuclear power industry of course wants to downplay dangers of this, and make it look like it's all nice and safe. One key factoid of the failure is that it's due to a failure of the cooling system, and that came because they'd located on-site backup diesel electricity generators on low-lying ground because they thought the seawall would withstand a tsunami. Unfortunately this tsunami was tall enough to overwhelm the seawall, swamp the generators, and the cooling system had no electricity to keep the reactor pile cool.

Every step of this accident follow from that failure.

The Nuclear Information and Resource Service contends that the Mark I design has design problems. Their fact sheet is embedded below.

The MSNBC report linked below has a lot more useful information. The data comes from the NRC database of nuclear power plants linked below.

NIRS Fact Sheet on Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant