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New York Times reports U.S. Was Warned on Vents Before Failure at Japan’s Plant.

Five years before the crucial emergency vents at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant were disabled by an accident they were supposed to help handle, engineers...warned American regulators about that very problem...at the Nuclear Regulatory Commission that the design of venting systems was seriously flawed at his reactor and others in the United States similar to the ones in Japan...the vents, which are supposed to relieve pressure at crippled plants and keep containment structures intact, should not be dependent on electric power and workers’ ability to operate critical valves because power might be cut in an emergency and workers might be incapacitated. Part of the reason the venting system in Japan failed — allowing disastrous hydrogen explosions — is that power to the plant was knocked out by a tsunami that followed a major earthquake... “The Nuclear Regulatory Commission cannot claim ignorance about this one.”

Well. Okay. My first and only diary...after six years on this site. (please be kind...[apologies in advance if it sucks].) I never thought I'd ever do a diary. With that in mind, I'll keep this short, sweet and to the point. Attention all fellow kossacks: The New York Times is reporting that the 'U.S. Was Warned on Vents Before Failure at Japan’s Plant.' Matthew Wald writes:

Five years before the crucial emergency vents at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant were disabled by an accident they were supposed to help handle, engineers at a reactor in Minnesota warned American regulators about that very problem.

Quite. Interesting. Indeed. I must admit I really never cease to be amazed. Also noteworthy are...

The efforts of engineer Anthony Sarrack and others, who

notified staff members at the Nuclear Regulatory Commission that the design of venting systems was seriously flawed at his reactor and others in the United States similar to the ones in Japan. He later left the industry in frustration...

As Sarrack noted,

the vents, which are supposed to relieve pressure at crippled plants and keep containment structures intact, should not be dependent on electric power and workers’ ability to operate critical valves because power might be cut in an emergency and workers might be incapacitated. Part of the reason the venting system in Japan failed — allowing disastrous hydrogen explosions — is that power to the plant was knocked out by a tsunami that followed a major earthquake.

He explains,

“The Nuclear Regulatory Commission cannot claim ignorance about this one.”

Here's the link. Much more info as it unfolds at New York Times and NHK.

http://www.nytimes.com/...

This is a pretty important, incredible story. It's something to think about. I just wanted to pass this along in case folks were interested and/or were not aware of this. I know it's a short post. (I left a comment on this but it's buried and I'm guessing no one will see it.)

Since I vowed never to write a diary, I'll keep this a brief follow-up to many other excellent diaries on the Fukushima disaster including Emergency vents in 31 U.S. reactors same as ones that failed in Fukushima by Meteor Blades, Fukushima ROV #56 Meltdown Doubt Dispelled by Gilmore, Overview To A Meltdown by Joieau, Radioactivity way up in Seawater from Fukushima 1, 2 & 3 Meltdowns by FishOutofWater, 5/17: Meltdown? What Meltdown? Fukushima ROV #55 by boatsie, Confirmed: Fuel rods at Fukushima reactor have mostly melted. Taxpayer funded bailout announced by Meteor Blades, Fukushima Dai Ichi Unit 1 is officially in a state of Meltdown by Adept2u, and many other fine diaries.

cheers

Originally posted to concerned on Thu May 19, 2011 at 04:34 AM PDT.

Also republished by Japan Nuclear Incident Liveblogs.

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Comment Preferences

  •  I wonder how many other frustrated nuclear (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    John DE, peraspera, concerned

    engineers have resigned out of frustration for other design flaws that we peons know nothing about....

    No snowflake in an avalanche ever feels responsible.

    by Magster on Thu May 19, 2011 at 05:47:55 AM PDT

  •  Really wish TEPCO or GE would (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    John DE, peraspera, concerned

    release the P&Is for those plants.  Would answer a lot of questions.

  •  They didn't vent (depressurize) (4+ / 0-)

    the reactors at Fukushima before the tidal wave, while they still fully had that capability, or in the immediate aftermath, while they at least partially had it.  By the time they got around to even trying it was too late.

    Why ? ? ?

    Fake Left, Drive Right . . . not my idea of a Democrat . . .

    by Deward Hastings on Thu May 19, 2011 at 08:21:56 AM PDT

  •  It is not that straightforward. (0+ / 0-)

    Nor do the events at Fukushima necessarily vindicate Anthony Sarrack (although they don't refute him either).

    A couple of decades ago it was recognized that BWR Mark I containments had not been designed to consider the possibility of hydrogen generation resulting from fuel damage and the added pressure that would build up in the containment as a result.

    It was also recognized that the normal means of venting the primary containment (flow directed via ventilation ducting to activated charcoal beds to remove any radioactivity before being released) would not suffice because the ducting was simply not designed with highly flammable hydrogen in mind or the high pressures involved. So" hard pipe vents" were installed to allow containment pressure to be relieved and and the hydrogen directed far from the reactor before being released to the atmosphere. The trade off is that the flow in the hard pipe vent is not filtered, unlike the normal method.

    What Sarrack advocated passionately for was a "passive" system for activating the hard pipe vent. He believed a rupture diaphragm should be installed rather than a normally closed valve that relied on some form of power to open (power that might not be available during a station blackout such as what was seen at Fukushima). He also believed a normally open valve should be installed downstream that could be closed to stop the venting when containment pressure had been adequately lowered. The industry opted to install a normally closed valve instead. As I understand it, the industry's concern was that if there was a station blackout and the rupture diaphragm acted as Sarrack planned, there would also not have been power to subsequently close the downstream valve. In other words, the containment would have continued to vent and vent and vent...without stop. That would not have been good either. There were arguments to be made for (and against) either approach and Sarrack was not able to persuade his industry peers to his way of thinking. It was an honest professional disagreement. In the end, the NRC sided with the consensus industry viewpoint. Although the utility Sarrack worked for opted for the industry standard hard pipe design, it did not try to suppress Sarrack from making his pitch to the industry groups, NRC, EPRI and others.

    It should be noted that the normally closed  hard pipe vent valves in question are air-operated (at least at the plant Sarrack worked at) and there are procedures in place to allow the operators to open the valve locally if need be during a station blackout.

    The operators at Fukushima made a conscious decision to vent the reactors through the filtered ducting rather than the hard pipe vent. I haven't heard why. The power to open valves from either method was lost so the venting would have had to have been performed manually.  Were the hard pipe vent valves less accessible or in a higher radiation field than the normal ventilation valves (at the reactor I used to work at the hard pipe vent valves and the normal vent valves were next to each other)? Were the operators concerned that venting through the hard pipe was less desirable because it would have been unfiltered? There are a lot of unanswered questions. It is premature for the NRC to apologize for anything.

  •  Great Job, Concerned! (0+ / 0-)

    Just got here. Thank you for posting this.  

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