Nearly all of the events that occurred at Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear energy facility following the massive March 11 earthquake and tsunami can be traced to the complete loss of electricity, including backup generators and emergency batteries, that was needed to power reactor cooling systems.
In response to the Fukushima accident, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) is re-evaluating the agency’s “station blackout” requirements for dealing with power outages. U.S. nuclear plants are required to have a minimum of four hours of emergency power; many plants exceed that requirement. That’s in addition to the several locomotive-sized diesel generators that provide layer upon layer of backup power for systems to safely shut down and maintain a reactor should electricity from the grid be disturbed.
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