What went wrong in Japan

Topics: Nuclear power, Electricity generation, Nuclear fuel Pages: 4 (1234 words) Published: December 12, 2013
On March 11, a 9.0 magnitude earthquake hit Japan and caused tremendous damage to Japan. The earthquake sparked off a 30-foot tsunami within an hour, which only compounded the, already extensive, damage to the country. One of the greatest fears was the potential of a nuclear fall out. Specifically, the Fukushima Daiichi power plant was in question. The nuclear plant in Fukushima had six nuclear reactors, and three out of six of them were in critical state – possibly melting down. The potential of radiation damage spread panic and fear, not only within Japan, but also around the world.

Although nuclear power plants have an enormous risk factor, their benefits are greater – or almost as great. Nuclear plants are a means to produce large amounts of energy, in an environmentally friendly manner. However, the potential for disaster is also present. We have seen this throughout history, with the Chernobyl and Three Mile Island disaster. Nonetheless, we continue to use nuclear energy. This is due to the fact that there is a global safety standard and there are several precautionary measures in place to minimize the damage and potential for fail. If there are so many precautions and safety nets, this gives rise to the question: “What went wrong in Japan then?”

There are several aspects to why the disaster happened in Japan. One of the most prominent one is the fact that the reactors that failed in Japan were Mark 1 boiling water reactors designed by General Electric in the 1960’s. This is one of the earlier and primitive reactor designs, in which the uranium fuel boils water that directly turns the steam turbine. Although effective, this design was later replaced by pressurized water reactors. Safety concerns surrounding the Mark 1 design, in particular, regarding the cooling system were the reason why these designs were quickly replaced. As we have seen, those safety concerns turned into safety failures in Japan.

The main flaw with nuclear reactor systems is...
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