Fukushima nuclear power plant disaster - Essay Example

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Name of Professor The Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant Disaster: An Analysis of the Causes and Effects The massive earthquake and tsunami that struck Japan in 2011 led to the disastrous Fukushima nuclear power plant disaster…
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Fukushima nuclear power plant disaster
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Download file to see previous pages The disastrous meltdown of the Fukushima nuclear power plant after the massive earthquake and tsunami in March 2011 frightened numerous people, not only in Japan, but also around the world. The roughly four-decade-old reactors needed electric pumps for reserve energy to expel water to activate the fuel rods in an emergency. Unfortunately, these mechanisms failed during the massive earthquake and tsunami (Cahill 48). The technologically advanced nuclear plants hoard water in the reactor containment basin, in an emergency that water would pour without outside power onto the worked up mechanism to cool it up for several days. They can also spontaneously expel water with heated air. Fukushima nuclear power plant was plagued with operator, mechanical, and construction errors. Several months prior to the earthquake, personnel on one of the six reactors erroneously performed procedures for the wrong reactor. A line regulating the cooling mechanism was taken out mistakenly, an error that was only found out weeks after (Noggerath, Geller, & Gusiakov 39). The tsunami aggravated the situation when electric power stopped working at four reactors. Heat accumulated in the reactors and in basins designed to prevent the overheating of worked up fuel rods. A few weeks after, power had not been brought back to the cooling mechanisms and to the hubs of the two reactors. The plant operators at last revealed in May that there had been a reactor breakdown (Noggerath et al. 39). The Fukushima Dai-ichi was made up of six units, with each of them having its own nuclear reactor. These units were built from 1967 to 1979 and were administered by the Tokyo Power and Electric Company (TEPCO). During the earthquake the three units were running and the remaining three were not functioning and under regular maintenance (Samuels 13). After the earthquake struck the three running units were stopped, in accordance to mandated protocols. Emergency generators were turned on to get rid of the spent heat from the reactors. But the 14-meter tsunami worsened the situation because the power plants were built to resist or hold out only a 6.5-meter tsunami (Perrow 2011, 46). The tsunami brought about extensive flooding in the whole expanse of Fukushima and also impaired the generators that run the emergency cooling mechanisms of the nuclear power plants. The available emergency cooling system was run by batteries, which expired after several hours. Lacking sufficient cooling, the water trapped inside the reactors created more heat, which consequently caused the reactors to overheat. This prompted the opening of the relief valves which then released the radioactive steam. A basic rule of nuclear power plant construction is ‘defense in depth’ (Cooper 10). This rule pushes engineers to build a plant that can survive extreme calamities, even as some mechanisms stopped working. A massive tsunami that incapacitates the diesel generators simultaneously is an example, but the 2011 tsunami was too severe, even unimaginable. To endure such a catastrophe, engineers constructed a backup resistance by placing the entire system into a containment unit that is constructed to protect the system. As soon as the diesel generators stopped working after the tsunami, the operators shifted to emergency battery power. But the batteries only lasted for roughly eight hours (Cooper 10-11). The plant operat ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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