Sunday, March 20, 2011

Was original GE Mark I containment vessel designed to fail? (revised - see Note)

General Electric Co. (GE)’s design for a nuclear reactor at a damaged Japanese power plant spurred the 1970s resignation of three employees over concern that its core might not withstand the loss of cooling systems in a severe accident, ABC News reported.
Bridenbaugh said the design flaws that prompted his resignation eventually were remedied in refits at Mark 1 reactors at Fukushima Dai-Ichi and around the globe, according to the ABC report.
The specific role of the G.E. design in the Fukushima crisis is likely to be a matter of debate, and it is possible that any reactor design could succumb to the one-two punch of an earthquake and tsunami like those that occurred last week in Japan.

Perhaps the original designers were hoping for a more spectacular "accident" to drive a stake through nuclear energy's heart right from the start. The second excerpt above indicates, at best, a lack of awareness of the advances in reactor design which, if implemented universally in a timely fashion, would have prevented the nuclear crisis in Japan. I suspect that they haven't been implemented precisely because they would prevent crises which provide excuses to ban nuclear energy.

Note: Revised last paragraph for clarity.