Japan’s Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant’s Mark 1 System Was Designed by America’s GE (General Electric Company)

Written by Holly Robin. Posted in National

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Published on April 18, 2011 with 2 Comments


There are 5 reactors out of the 104 located in the United States that have been flagged within “quake zones”.  Last week in the article “Nuclear Nation” we looked at the precautionary steps President Obama took in light of the aftermath of Fukushima.  One question that remains is whether or not we as a country are in danger of a crisis such as the one that just happened at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant in Japan.  Now raise your hands if you have heard of G.E…

That’s right G.E., as in America’s General Electrical Company.   Over 40 years ago Walt Patterson described the intense controversy in the United States at the time regarding the performance of the emergency cooling systems on water-cooled reactors that ultimately ended up causing the reactors to overheat.  Patterson is considered an expert as he the Senior Research Fellow in the Energy and Environment Programme.

What many of us do not know is that TEPCO despite popular opinions is not the one to blame in this, nor is the Japanese government.  Taking a look at another earlier article “Chernobyl and Fukushima Nuclear Plants Share the Same Rating” I pointed out what technological malfunction caused the devastation we know as Fukushima, but to think that General Electric was aware of these flaws back when the plant opened in 1972 and did nothing about them leaves me speechless.

A Russian military publicist, Zavtra Vladislav Shurygin, believes that Fukushima is ultimately an American disaster, not Japan’s.   The warnings that the Mark 1 nuclear reactor would burst if the cooling systems were to fail, were clear as day back in 1972 as Fukushima was opening.  In 1972 weaknesses were identified in the Mark 1 system and key safety issues brought to attention by Stephen H. Hanauer, a safety official with the Atomic Energy Commission (ARC).  The issues caught the attention of, Joseph Hendrie, who would later become chairman of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC).  Hendrie entertained the ban as “attractive” however the technology of the Mark 1 system had been widely accepted throughout the industry and the reversal of the hallowed policy, he feared would end nuclear power.

Throughout the 1980s questions escalated on the design and when Harold Denton, an official with the NRC, declared that the Mark 1 reactors had a 90 percent probability of bursting if the fuel rods were to overheat and melt during an accident.  The spokesman for G.E.’s water and power division at the time, Michael Tetuan, defended the Mark 1 system technology by saying it was the “industry’s workhorse”, moreover having a record of safe and reliability for more than 40 years.

Well it’s been more than 40 years since it was built seeing as Fukushima opened in 1972 and I guess time’s up.  G.E. is currently making the rounds to clean up its reputation, and due to the law in Japan they will not be found responsible for disaster, but they are far from off the hook.  Under the global microscope G.E. needs to pony up and say just exactly how many more nuclear power plants have the Mark 1 system before this tragedy repeats.

2 Comments

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  1. You’re in error. It is the Japanese that are responsible for the failure that occurred at Fukushima. GE did not build the nor design the entire power plant. The reactor is GE’s design, the power plants were designed by different companies; Toshiba & Hitachi. Toshiba owns Westinghouse. Not the other way around.

    The failure to properly design for a tsunami of 14m, rather than the design parameter of 6.7m had nothing to do with GE. The design of the backup generators, their location, the failure to have a snorkel to keep water out of the generator, the failure to provide water tight rooms for the generators, all Japanese design.

    In spite of all of these factors, perhaps the greatest factor was the failure to ask for help in a timely fashion and the failure to provide accurate truthful information in a timely fashion.

    • Thanks for the comment and a good point! This disaster is of a horrible magnitude. Rather than pointing fingers or placing blame, the focus should be on solutions. Clearly an arument could be raised for both the Japanese and the Mark 1 design. Throw in a larger factor such as an earthquake followed by a tsunami and all bets are off. The author, Holly Robin, researched her story from several sources such as the NY Times and and ABC News. She merely chose a side to report on. I bet after a thorough investigation concludes, we will see errors or a lack of judgement from several key players on both sides.
      Thanks,
      DCTETI
      Editor

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