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Nuclear Reactor Meltdown: The Three Mile Island Accident

Nuclear Reactor Meltdown: The Three Mile Island Accident

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Published by: Zimvi on Mar 12, 2011
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12/05/2012

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PresidentJimmy CarterleavingThree Mile IslandforMiddletown, Pennsylvania, April 1, 1979 The
Three Mile Island accident
was a partial coremeltdownin Unit 2 (apressurized water reactormanufactured byBabcock & Wilcox) of theThree Mile Island Nuclear Generating StationinDauphin County, PennsylvanianearHarrisburgin 1979. The plant was
 
owned and operated byGeneral Public Utilitiesand the Metropolitan Edison Co. It was the most significant accident in the history of  the American commercialnuclear powergenerating industry, resulting in the release of up to 481PBq(13 millioncuries) of  radioactivegases, but less than740 GBq (20 curies) of the particularly dangerousiodine-131.
[1]
The accident began at 4 a.m. on Wednesday, March 28, 1979, with failures in the non-nuclear secondary system, followed by a stuck-openpilot-operated relief valve(PORV) in the primary system, which allowed large amounts of nuclear reactor coolantto escape. The mechanical failures were compounded by the initial failure of plant operators to recognize the situation as aloss of coolant accident due to inadequate training andhuman factors, such asindustrial designerrors relating to ambiguous control room indicators in the power plant'suser interface. The scope and complexity of the accident became clear over the course of five days, as employees of Metropolitan Edison(Met Ed, the utility operating the plant), Pennsylvania state officials, and members of the U.S.NuclearRegulatory Commission(NRC) tried to understand the problem, communicate the situation to the press and local community, decidewhether the accident required an emergency evacuation, and ultimately end the crisis. In the end, the reactor was brought under control, although full details of the accident were not discovered until much later, followingextensive investigations by both a presidential commission andthe NRC. The Kemeny Commission Report concluded that "there willeither be no case of cancer or the number of cases will be so small that it will never be possible to detect them. The same conclusionapplies to the other possible health effects."
[2]
Several epidemiological studies in the years since the accident have supported theconclusion that radiation releases from theaccident had no perceptible effect on cancer incidence in residents near the plant, thoughthese findings have been contested by one team of researchers.
[3]
Public reaction to the event was probably influenced by the release of the movie
The China Syndrome
12 days before the accident,which happens to depict an accident at anuclear reactor.
[4]
Communications from officials during the initial phases of the accidentwere felt to be confusing.
[5]
The accident crystallizedanti-nuclearsafety concerns among activists and the general public; resulted innew regulations for the nuclear industry; and it has been cited as a contributor to the decline of new reactor construction that wasalready underway inthe 1970s.
Contents
[hide
 
]1 Accident
1.1 Stuck valve
1.2 Humanfactors – conf usion over valve status
 
1.4 Emergency declared
1.5 Radioactive material release2 Aftermath
2.1 Voluntary evacuation
2.2 Investigations
2.3 Effect on nuclear power industry
2.4 Cleanup
2.5 Health effects and epidemiology
2.6 Activism and legal action
2.7 Lessons learned3 The China Syndrome4 Current status5 Timeline6 See also7 References8 Bibliography9 External links
[edit] Accident
[edit
 
Simplified Schematic Diagram of the TMI-2plant.
[6]
In the nighttime hours preceding the accident, the TMI-2 reactor was running at 97% of full power, while the companion TMI-1reactor was shut down for refueling.
[7]
The chain of events leading to the partial core meltdown began at 4 a.m.ESTon March 28,1979, in TMI-2's secondary loop, one of the three main water/steam loops in apressurized water reactor. As a result of mechanical or electrical failure, the pumps in thecondensate polishingsystem stopped running, followed immediately by the mainfeedwater pumps. This automatically triggered theturbineto shut down and the reactor toscram:control rodswere inserted into the core and fission ceased.But the reactor continued to generatedecay heat, and because steam was no longer being used by the turbine due to the turbine trip, thesteamgeneratorsno longer removed that heat from the reactor.
[8]

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