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Failure of Vents at Fukushima Daiichi Plant Raises Concerns for U.S. Nuclear Plants | cialis online

Failure of Vents at Fukushima Daiichi Plant Raises Concerns for U.S. Nuclear Plants

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The failure of emergency vents in Japan nuclear plants caused the hydrogen gas explosions following the March tsunami. The New York Times reports the failure of vents at the Fukushima Daiichi plant was the primary cause of explosions and puts into question the safety of nuclear plants in the U.S. and Japan.

After the tsunami, it was critical to relieve pressure inside reactors but the failing vents caused hydrogen gas explosions, emitting radioactive materials into the atmosphere. U.S. reactors are equipped with new and stronger venting systems, American officials assert, making reactors safe from such disasters. Tokyo Electric Power Company challenges this claim saying the Fukushima Daiichi plant installed the same General Electric vents years ago, says Times.

The Times recently reported that five years ago American regulators had notice the design of the venting systems was flawed. Anthony Sarrack, a former Minnesota engineer, advised the Nuclear Regulatory Commission the vents “should not depend on electric power and workers’ ability to operate critical valves because power might be cut in an emergency and workers might be incapacitated.”

Several factors contributed to the hydrogen gas explosion. According to the Times, a primary cause was the several-hour delay decision to use the vents. Tokyo Electric managers struggled with resorting to emergency measures that would result in releasing radioactive materials into the air. However, analysts assert the releases would have been comparably smaller than the explosion which occurred.

Tokyo Electric gave the directive to use the vents more than 17 hours after the tsunami struck and six hours after the government’s order to vent. The new directive was followed by a wave of complications. Operators’ attempt to turn on the venting system failed because the power necessary to open critical valves was out. High radiation levels near the venting system at Reactor No. 1 prevented manual opening of the valves.

The failing vents wreaked havoc as Reactor No. 1 exploded the day after the earthquake. On Monday, Reactor No. 3 exploded followed by Reactor No. 1 early Tuesday morning. Each explosion sent radioactive materials into the air causing the evacuation of tens of thousands of earthquake survivors living near the plant, says the Times, contaminating crops and sending faint levels of radioactive isotopes as far as the U.S.

The recent release of company documents provides evidence mechanical failures and design flaws in the venting system also contributed to the delay. During an emergency, the vents were designed to channel pressure inside the reactors, slowing down the release of gas and eliminating radioactive materials. However, the emergency vents at the Fukushima Daiichi plant required electricity and relied on the same power source as the plant, making them useless when power was lost.

It is clear a redesign of the venting system is imperative. The Times reported the current design was birthed by conflicting views among U.S. nuclear officials, says Michael Friedlander, a former senior operator at several American nuclear plants. Friedlander described the situation as being a mix of engineers who want contaminated areas closed off and those who advise the areas be vented.

Whichever view prevails, it must now be determined if venting systems at similar plants in the U.S. and Japan need to undergo costly and time-consuming redesign efforts.

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