Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) said that an oil leak in a cooling water pump at Unit 4 was the cause of a fire that burned for approximately 140 minutes. The fire was not in the spent fuel pool, as reported by several media outlets.
Unit 4 was in a 105-day-long maintenance outage at the time of the reactor and there is no fuel in the reactor.
Since that time I spoke with a senior reactor operator licensed on a facility in the United States that is very similar to the ones that are having issues in Japan.
A point we hear no mention of in the media is that General Electric designed these plants and actually manufactured the reactors for some of them.
When an engineering firm designs a plant and present the specifications to the potential client (in this case the Japanese) it is the responsibility of the client to inform the design team of the natural phenomena - seismic events, atmospheric events - that may occur in their region. Then the designers do a final safety analysis report to determine whether this plant can meet those specific local events, and then the regulatory agencies confirm that.
However the Japanese made a significant mistake; they failed in their assessment about the tsunami; because it was the tsunami that caused the failure of the plant's safety components; i.e. seawater into the diesel fuel for the emergency back-up generators. The plant' reactors did in fact handle an earthquake that was 9 on the Richter Scale.
This is significant because even though the Japanese miscalculated on what their natural phenomena could be, the American-designed, the American-built plant withstood a "Beyond-Design Basis Event".
This plant is 40 years old, which means of course they miscalculated 40 years ago. The ironic thing is this plant was intended to be taken off line in 2011, and the Japanese had recently given it a ten-year life extension; of course its off-line now.
The point is that the American nuclear industry has designed our plants according to careful analysis of local events; we're not going to have a tsunami here.
The media should be praising General Electric and their designers, but the fact of the matter is that we will never hear of this positive aspect about nuclear power in the mainstream media.
- SEAN LINNANE SENDS