The Fukushima Nuclear Plant

The Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant was built in Okuma, Fukushima, to provide Japan with electricity. The plant consists of six nuclear reactors that were built during different times in the 1970s. The reactors were built close together primarily because finding a new location would make a new reactor very expensive, compared to the addition of a new reactor. The plant was constructed near the sea because nuclear plants consumes massive amount of waters just for its cooling needs and also for steam generation which then drives turbines that generate electricity. The various reactors serviced different companies and suppliers including General Electric, Toshiba, and Hitachi.

On March 11th, 2011, an earthquake and subsequent tsunami caused a series of equipment failures, nuclear meltdowns and releases of radioactive materials. According to the International Business Times (Australia) "Fukushima is not the worst nuclear accident ever but it is the most complicated and the most dramatic disaster.” (IBT, 01) On April 2011 The Nuclear Institute rated the disaster a Level 7 “Major Accident” on the International Nuclear Event Scale.

The International Nuclear Event Scale

How the reactors were damaged

An earthquake of magnitude 9.0 on a Richter Scale initially damaged the reactors. According to the World Nuclear Association, reactor 4 had been de-fueled while reactors 5 and 6 were in cold shutdown for planned maintenance. Immediately after the earthquake, the remaining reactors 1-3 shut down automatically and emergency generators came online to power electronics and coolant systems. However, a tsunami rapidly followed the earthquake, flooding the low-lying rooms in which the emergency generators were housed. The flooded generators failed, cutting power to critical pumps, which must continuously circulate coolant water through a nuclear reactor for several days after being shut down in order to keep the plant from melting

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