NRC short history of nuclear reactor regulation
The Emergency Core Cooling Controversy
At the prodding of the ACRS, which first sounded the alarm about the China syndrome, the AEC established a special task force to look into the problem of core melting in 1966. The committee, chaired by William K. Ergen, a reactor safety expert and former ACRS member from Oak Ridge National Laboratory, submitted its findings to the AEC in October 1967. The report offered assurances about the improbability of a core meltdown and the reliability of emergency core cooling designs, but it also acknowledged that a loss-of-coolant accident could cause a breach of containment if ECCS failed to perform. Therefore, containment could no longer be regarded as an inviolable barrier to the escape of radioactivity. This represented a milestone in the evolution of reactor regulation. In effect, it imposed a modified approach to reactor safety. Previously, the AEC had viewed the containment building as the final independent line of defense against the release of radiation; even if a serious accident took place the damage it caused would be restricted to the plant. Once it became apparent that under some circumstances the containment building might not hold, however, the key to protecting the public from a large release of radiation was to prevent accidents severe enough to threaten containment. And this depended heavily on a properly designed and functioning ECCS.
The problem facing the AEC regulatory staff was that experimental work and experience with emergency cooling was very limited. Finding a way to test and to provide empirical support for the reliability of emergency cooling became the central concern of the AEC’s safety research program. Plans had been underway since the early 1960s to build an experimental reactor, known as the Loss-of-Fluid-Tests (LOFT) facility, at the AEC’s reactor testing station in Idaho. Its purpose was to provide data about the effects of a loss of coolant accident. For a variety of reasons, including weak management of the test program, a change of design, and reduced funding, progress on the LOFT reactor and the preliminary tests that were essential for its success were chronically delayed. Despite the complaints of the ACRS and the regulatory staff, the AEC diverted money from LOFT and other safety research projects on existing light-water reactor design to work in the development of fast-breeder reactors. A proven fast breeder was an urgent objective for the AEC and the Joint Committee; Seaborg described it as “a priority national goal” that could assure “an essentially unlimited energy supply, free from problems of fuel resources and atmospheric contamination.”
To the consternation of the AEC, experiments run at the Idaho test site in late 1970 and early 1971 suggested that the ECCS in light-water reactors might not work as designed. end quote.
This time frame covers the period in which TEPCO ordered reactors for Fukushima Diiachi and the period in which TEPCO and GE discussed the type and fine detail of the reactors to be constructed at the Fukushima Diiachi site.
The great press presence of the ECCS fiasco at the time, the call by the AEC chairman for a technical fix, the arguments and concerns held by regulatory and GE staff over the GE Mk1 containment, and the option of (more expensively) of mounting the back up generators high (on 2nd, 3rd, 4th floors instead of in the basements of the reactors) must have been discussed by GE and TEPCO prior to construction of Fukushima Diiachi. Locating the generators in the basesments seems obviously to be a cheap option.
The Final report of the Japanese Diet into the March 2011 disaster contradicts TEPCO’s explanation of the disaster. http://mainichi.jp/english/english/newsselect/news/20120706p2a00m0na011000c.html
Fukushima nuke disaster investigative panel rejects TEPCO tsunami claims
The final report released by the Diet’s Fukushima nuclear disaster investigative panel has concluded that factors other than the tsunami may have triggered the loss of power at the plant, which aggravated the unprecedented disaster.
In its 641-page report released on July 5, the panel said there is no denying that the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant’s No. 1 reactor was damaged by the earthquake that struck northeastern Japan on March 11, 2011.
“The primary cause of the disaster should not be attributed to the tsunami alone,” the final report said. The report also stated that there is a possibility that the loss of backup power at the plant “may not have been triggered by the tsunami,” rejecting the views previously presented by plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) and the government’s disaster investigation committee. Because experts’ opinions are divided over the issue, calls may arise for further verification.
The later July 2012 report identified the fallen power pole as the original cause of the loss of power to the reactors. This was caused by earthquake alone. It does not take a huge, unusual earthquake to bring down a power pole. A light vehicle hitting a power pole with sufficient speed can bring down a power pole.
In the event, the basement mounted emergency generators were flooded by the sea and the quakes alone had also damaged emergency switchgear and circuits.
Thereafter the last line of defense, the Emergency Core Cooling Systems were called into operation. The mystery is why the independent, non electrical, reactor steam powered emergency coolant turbine pumps did not work in any of the Fukushima Diiachi reactors.
But this inadequacy of such systems, generically, across the industry designs, were first called into question by independent scientists and then the AEC in 1966!!!
The AEC chairman later called for an urgent technical which never ever came.
So, what went on between TEPCO and GE in those early years? The information is most important. What options did GE put to TEPCO and what options did TEPCO reject in favor of cost minimisation?
Further, the US Congress at the time approved the GE plan to establish “Reactor Parks”, containing many reactors on the one site. The advantage to GE in this plan was economy of scale and, clearly stated, the advantage of having one set of local residents’ objections per reactor park, compared to many sets of protests for many independent reactor sites. At the time independent scientists pointed out the danger of placing many reactors, numbers of reactors, close together. Such reactors would be exposed to the same local events which could cause local LOCA and other accidents. In the context of failed ECCS performance mass containment breaches could occur in reactor parks. Such events would result in a field of contamination at the reactor parks which would greatly add to hazard at the reactor parks and make emergency response actions far more dangerous for workers and response crews. The mass containment breaches would result in obviously very much greater emissions from the clusters of reactors all suffering the same events. (Nader and Abbot, 1977)
Such objections were discounted by Congress after representations from GE and the AEC. The AEC labelled scientists who protested the approval of the concept of reactor parks as “UnAmerican”; it also labelled them as “communists”.
In March 2011 the Fukushima Diiachi reactor park behave entirely predicted by independent scientists in the early 1970s. REactor after reactor suffered LOCA, melt down and core breach after power loss and ECCS failure.
IN the aftermath, workers suffered greatly from the compounded exposures caused by a raft of breached reactors spewing their contents into the Fukushima Diiachi Reactor Park. Helicopter pilots could not successfully drop water onto the reactors and spent fuel pools because of the combined gamma, neutron and ground shine from the gaggle of failed reactors.
And so it goes on. Japan and the world suffered a greatly enhanced initial contamination event because Fukushima Diiachi is a reactor park of many reactors. And the reactors have been venting ever since.
In the failure chain manifest at Fukushima Diiachi, there is one seminal event:
“The earthquake and tsunami on March 11 significantly affected many nuclear power
plants. Among others, at Fukushima Dai-ichi NPS, the measured seismic ground motion
exceeded the design-basis standard seismic ground motions, causing damage to switching
yard equipment and the destruction of a pylon due to the collapse of an embankment, which
led to a station blackout.”
At this point, only the emergency generators could provide intermediate term power to the reactors. Tragically, decades ago it had been decided to mount these generators low down in the reactor basements. Once flooded by the sea, the fate of Japan depended the ECCS. The ECCS which the AEC (forerunner of the NRC) knew in 1966 to be faulty and inadequate. By the 1970s, the AEC had called for a “technical fix”. The technical did not arrive.
Ever since March 2011 Australin and world nuclear “experts” have used the Fukushima Diiachi disaster to expound upon the supposed excellence of nuclear reactors and nuclear industry.
This 1960s era thinking shows that these experts have learnt nothing from history. Involved reactor workers can be expected to have diverse views on this matter. And they are entitled to have and to express their opinions, despite employer gag orders.
When I first quoted IAEA data which reported the extent of radiological contamination at the Fukushima Diiachi site, a US reactor worker contacted. He was most concerned at the very high and very dangerous levels of exposure the contamination caused. He asked for assurance that the figures were accurate. I referred him to the AEC site.
All of this was foreseen by nuclear authorities in the 1960s and 1970s. By a process of voter manipulation and false reports, industry had its way and the reactors were built.
After the passage of decades, I cannot see what has been learnt and what has been changed, as the movers and shakers of nuclear industry claim all knowledge and exclusive authority in such matters. Time and again they are forced to exclaim “Oh we have learnt our lesson this time.”
In fact they never do.
In Australia, nuclear experts maintain that a reactor accident could never happen here because we do not have major quakes. That cannot be guaranteed. Further, a fallen power pylon in Japan caused loss of power to the afflicted Japanese reactors.
A car crash into a pylon by a Morris Mini could cause the same.
Within the uranium mining nations there is an economic need to present the Fukushima narrative in such a way as to maintain the uranium price as high as possible. This attempt at industry bullshitting has been a failure in South Australia.
Free markets pride themselves at their grounding in reality. As the reality of the Fukushima disaster deviates so greatly from the stories told by nuclear experts, it is easy to see that the uranium market, and the reactor market, are controlled by a enclave of nuclear apologists who promote their wares in a manner in which Big Tobacco envies in its audacity and effrontery.
The people of Japan have the challenge of disposing of the massive amount of nuclear debris nuclear industry has released in Japan. The authorities gather it up and ship it to uncontaminated regions of Japan, where it is burnt.
In the 1950s the Australian government permitted the detonation of 12 British nuclear weapons in Australia. It permitted experiments which spread bomb fuel and other substances into the biosphere. The bomb fallout and plutonium test residue affected involved personnel. It also affected close in civilians and indeed civilians across the nation.
In the 1980s and later nuclear authorities reported that, on the basis (self serving) calculations about 35 Australians would have contacted cancer as a result. No one I know believes this figure, which excludes Aboriginal people and nuclear veterans.
When the government bent to pressure and established a veterans health study in the late 20th century, it compared the cancer rates of nuclear veterans with the general population.
The general population is a poor control group, because it too was exposed to the bomb fallout (Wise and Moroney, ARL). None the less there was found to be a maximum of a 24% increased risk of cancer (varied according to type) among nuclear veterans.
As Australia did not commence a national cancer registry prior to 1974 (ie around the time of the end of Project Sunshine, the global fallout impact study), it is impossible to compare the pre bomb test cancer risk present in Australia with the cancer risk experienced by either civilians or nuclear veterans.
In fifty year’s time in Japan, as people attempt to claim justice from nuclear industry for diseases suffered because of nuclear emissions in 2011 – 2012 (etc), nuclear authorities will trot out data which compares disease rates between people resident closer in the reactors with residents further away……
At the present time the Japanese authorities are carting tons of nuclear debris away from the close in areas and burning it in the open air amid populations who are miles away from the reactors.
Such manipulations of deliberate exposures is very very British Nuclear in its conceptual origins.
Such manipulation is not specifically Japanese. The disaster is not specifically Japanese. It is typical of World Nuclear.
In the 1950s Edward Teller recognized the threat posed by nuclear reactors. In order to minimize the chances of mass effects in major cities, he suggested that reactors be located in areas remote from major cities. So did Ralph Lapp in the 1970s (New York Times, “The Problem of Nuclear Plumbing”). Teller even suggested building reactors underground.
The remote siting of nuclear reactors in Japan guaranteed the radiological contamination of the Japanese food production areas. Farms have had to be abandoned and other crops are belatedly subject to some testing and some limits. The radio chemicals should not be in food in any quantity at all. Meanwhile the nuclear claims it is not emitting while at the same time as it promotes the idea that the presence of its emissions are perfectly safe. They are not. See Comar et al, 1967 and earlier.
Movement of Fallout Radionuclides Through the Biosphere and Man
Annual Review of Nuclear Science
Vol. 15: 175-206 (Volume publication date December 1965)
C L Comar
FULL-TEXT| PDF (1439 KB)|
Contrary to the frantic screams of specific Japanese and world nuclear experts, it is not safe to eat plutonium.
The industry concept of dilution is contradicted by the rules and fact of bio-accumulation. The claimed dilution merely increases the number of affected people. Nuclear authorities use this increased spread of harm in phony control group comparisons between close in victims and more distant people. As the distant people are affected, contrast in effects are diluted due to deliberate spread of exposure. The results of such comparisons take decades to be published and are used against nuclear victims in court.
Can anyone out there produce a map showing Japan and the cities in which nuclear industry debris is being burnt and the estimated fallout plume ground deposition?