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Fukushima nuclear plant incident in 2011 - Essay Example

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Fukushima Nuclear Plant Incident in 2011 Fukushima Nuclear Plant Incident in 2011 Introduction Japan faced a major earthquake that resulted into a tsunami on March 11, 2011 and caused considerable damage to the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant…
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Download file to see previous pages This is the largest nuclear catastrophe recorded in the world after the 1986 Chernobyl disaster and it is believed to have released approximately 10 to 30% of radiation material of what Chernobyl incident emitted (Povinec, Hirose and Aoyama 2013, p. 9). In the event of the tsunami, the backup power equipment that was meant to cool the reactors was destroyed and this caused fuel melting, hydrogen outburst, and radioactive gases. This radioactive release at the Fukushima plant forced the neighborhoods up to 25 miles estimated at more than 100,000 residents were all evacuated away from the plant. The subsequent lack of AC power in Units 1 to three prohibited the valves and pumps from working normally which was necessary to eliminate heat and pressure that occurred due to radioactive decay from the nuclear fuel within the reactor hubs. The fuel rods therefore, overheated and in combination with the steam, huge quantities of hydrogen were generated causing an explosion. This is the explosion that prevented the plant workers from cooling the reactors and the radioactivity spread rapidly (Elliott 2012, p.7). The Pollutant Source and Pathway The source of the Fukushima nuclear plant disaster is directly related to the earthquake of a 9.0 magnitude that hit Japan in 2011. This earthquake caused damage to the external power supply and the backup diesel emergency generators were flooded leading them to fail. After the failure of the diesel backup generators, the reactor operators initiated the emergency battery power but they run out after 8 hours of operation. The enduring heat therefore, could not be carried out and this led to fuel failure. Fuel failure occurs because of mechanical, chemical or even thermal failures when there is too much heat in the valves (Brook, 2011). The nuclear power plant workers had now to focus on managing the core while the heat was building up to allow the fuel cladding to keep going as much as possible. In reality, the reactor is made up of several independent and different cooling systems that operate to ensure smooth flow. These cooling systems include the reactor water clean-up mechanism, the decay heat exclusion, the core isolating cooling system, and also standby cooling mechanism among others. It is evident some of these cooling system failed and caused damage to the core and therefore, the disaster occurred (Elliott 2012, p.7). When the workers lost most of the cooling systems because of loss of power, they had to come up with other means of eliminating the heat. However, in a situation where the heat production is greater than its removal, the pressure immediately keeps rising as the boiling water builds steam. The operators now focused on keeping the temperature below 1200°C, while also maintaining a manageable level of the pressure. Maintaining a manageable pressure level is necessary to get rid of steam and this is done by pressure relief valves that are contained in the reactor (Elliott 2012, p.7). The process of maintaining pressure requires venting or emitting steam to keep the levels in a steady rate. It is important to note that steam and other gases eliminated are radioactive fission materials, which are in small quantities. In this case, when the workers at Fukushima nuclear plant were emitting steam, some form of radioactive emissions were released into the ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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