You are on page 1of 18

Title:- Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Disaster

Prepared for: Puan Nadia Binti Kamarudin Transport Phenomena for CPE 523 Academy of Engineering Uitm, Shah Alam.
Prepared by: GROUP: EH 2213B Name ID students



Table of Content
No. Title Pages 1.0 Introduction of Fukushima 3 Disaster 2.0 Background Construction 5 of the Fukushima nuclear power plants 3.0 Fundamentals of Nuclear 7 Reactions 4.0 What happened at 9 Fukushima 5.0 Transport Phenomena Relation 5.1 Momentum Transport 5.2 Mass Transport 5.2 Energy Transport 6.0 Appendices 7.0 References

14 15 16 17 18

1.0 Introduction of Fukushima Disaster

A nuclear reactor at Fukushima Daiichi had exploded on March 11, 2011 right after a tsunami, resulted from a huge earthquake of scale magnitude 9.0, hit the coast of Fukushima and flow over the nuclear power plant.

The earthquake was very large that formed a tsunami of 10 to 13 metres high, that strucked 45 minutes later, which was higher than the 6 metre above seawater level of the nuclear power plant. Fukushima Daichii power plant was damaged by the running over of seawater.

This was the largest earthquake ever recorded in Japan and, according to the United States Geological Survey, the fourth largest recorded worldwide since 1900.( U.S. Geological Survey, Largest Earthquakes in the World Since 1900) The earthquake was located 80 kilometres northeast from the coast of Japan. 300,000 have been evacuated to safe areas (permanently)

The disaster that struck Japans Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power station on March 11, 2011, caused the most extensive release of radioactivity since the Chernobyl accident in 1986 and was far worse than the 1979 Three Mile Island accident in the United States. Unlike at Chernobyl and Three Mile Island, the destruction at Fukushima was initiated by natural disasters a huge earthquake and tsunami rather than equipment failure and human error. The tsunami knocked out backup power systems that were needed to cool the reactors at the plant, causing several of them to undergo fuel melting, hydrogen explosions, and radioactive releases. The huge earthquake and tsunami that struck Japans Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power station on March 11, 2011, knocked out backup power systems that were needed to cool the reactors at the plant, causing three of them to undergo fuel melting, hydrogen explosions, and radioactive releases. Radioactive contamination from the Fukushima plant forced the evacuation of communities up to 25 miles away and affected up to 100,000 residents, although it did not cause any immediate deaths. Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) operates the Fukushima nuclear power complex in the Futaba district of Fukushima prefecture in Northern Japan, consisting of six nuclear units at the Fukushima Daiichi station and four nuclear units at the Fukushima Daini station. All the units at the Fukushima complex are boiling water reactors, with reactors 1 to 5 at the Fukushima Daiichi site being the General Electric Mark I design, which is also used

in the United States. The Fukushima Daini reactors shut down automatically after the earthquake and were able to maintain sufficient cooling. When the earthquake struck, Fukushima Daiichi units 1, 2, and 3 were generating electricity and shut down automatically. The earthquake caused offsite power supplies to be lost, and backup diesel generators started up as designed to supply backup power. However, 4

the subsequent tsunami flooded the electrical switchgear for the diesel generators, causing most AC power in units 1 to 4 to be lost. Because Unit 4 was undergoing a maintenance shutdown, all of its nuclear fuel had been removed and placed in the units spent fuel storage pool. One generator continued operating to cool units 5 and 6. The loss of all AC power in units 1 to 3 prevented valves and pumps from operating that were needed to remove heat and pressure that was being generated by the radioactive decay of the nuclear fuel in the reactor cores. As the fuel rods in the reactor cores overheated, they reacted with steam to produce large amounts of hydrogen, which escaped into the unit 1, 3, and 4 reactor buildings and exploded (the hydrogen that exploded in Unit 4 is believed to have come from Unit 3). The explosions interfered with efforts by plant workers to restore cooling and helped spread radioactivity. Cooling was also lost in the reactors spent fuel pools, although recent analysis has found that no significant overheating took place. Radioactive material released into the atmosphere produced extremely high radiation dose rates near the plant and left large areas of land uninhabitable, especially to the northwest of the plant. Contaminated water from the plant was discharged into the sea, creating international controversy. Studies of the Fukushima disaster have identified design changes, response actions, and other safety improvements that could have reduced or eliminated the amount of radioactivity released from the plant. As a result, Fukushima has prompted a reexamination of nuclear plant safety requirements around the world, including in the United States. 2.0 Background Construction of the Fukushima nuclear power plants

The plants at Fukushima are Boiling Water Reactors as figure below. A Boiling Power Water produces electricity by boiling water, and spinning a turbine with that steam. The nuclear fuel heats water, the water boils and creates steam, the steam 5

then drives turbines that create the electricity, and the steam is then cooled and condensed back to water, and the water returns to be heated by the nuclear fuel. The reactor operates at about 285 C.

Figure :-The plants at Fukushima are Boiling Water Reactors The nuclear fuel is uranium oxide. Uranium oxide is a ceramic with a very high melting point of about 2800 C. The fuel is manufactured in pellets (cylinders that are about 1 cm tall and 1 com in diameter). These pellets are then put into a long tube made of Zircaloy (an alloy of zirconium) with a failure temperature of 1200 C (caused by the auto-catalytic oxidation of water), and sealed tight. This tube is called a fuel rod. These fuel rods are then put together to form assemblies, of which several hundred make up the reactor core. The solid fuel pellet (a ceramic oxide matrix) is the first barrier that retains many of the radioactive fission products produced by the fission process. The Zircaloy casing is the second barrier to release that separates the radioactive fuel from the rest of the reactor. The core is then placed in the pressure vessel. The pressure vessel is a thick steel vessel that operates at a pressure of about 7 MPa (~1000 psi), and is designed to withstand the high pressures that may occur during an accident. The pressure vessel is the third barrier to radioactive material release. The entire primary loop of the nuclear reactor the pressure vessel, pipes, and pumps that contain the coolant (water) are housed in the containment 6

structure. This structure is the fourth barrier to radioactive material release. The containment structure is a hermetically (air tight) sealed, very thick structure made of steel and concrete. This structure is designed, built and tested for one single purpose: To contain, indefinitely, a complete core meltdown. To aid in this purpose, a large, thick concrete structure is poured around the containment structure and is referred to as the secondary containment. Both the main containment structure and the secondary containment structure are housed in the reactor building. The reactor building is an outer shell that is supposed to keep the weather out, but nothing in. (this is the part that was damaged in the explosions, but more to that later).

3.0 Fundamentals of Nuclear Reactions As we known, Nuclear reactors produce power through the fission (splitting) of the nuclei of heavy isotopes, such as uranium-235 and plutonium-239, resulting from the absorption of neutrons. Each fission event generates additional neutrons that induce more fission events, creating a continuous nuclear chain reaction. The 7

uranium fuel generates heat by neutron-induced nuclear fission. Uranium atoms are split into lighter atoms (aka fission products). This process generates heat and more neutrons (one of the particles that forms an atom). When one of these neutrons hits another uranium atom, that atom can split, generating more neutrons and so on. That is called the nuclear chain reaction. The heavy nuclei split into lighter isotopes called fission products, many of which are highly radioactive, such as iodine-129, iodine-131, strontium-90, and cesium-137. To shut down the nuclear chain reaction, neutron-absorbing control rods are inserted into the reactor core. However, even though the fission process has stopped, the fission products and other radioactive isotopes in the reactor core continue to generate significant heat through radioactive decay. Until the decay heat sufficiently diminishes, a source of electricity is needed to operate pumps and circulate water in the reactor. Under normal conditions, it would take a few days for a reactor core to cool down to a cold shutdown state.

During normal, full-power operation, the neutron population in a core is stable (remains the same) and the reactor is in a critical state. It is worth mentioning at this point that the nuclear fuel in a reactor can never cause a nuclear explosion like a nuclear bomb. At Chernobyl, the explosion was caused by excessive pressure buildup, hydrogen explosion and rupture of all structures, propelling molten core material into the environment. In fact, Chernobyl did not have a containment structure as a barrier to the environment. Why that did not and will not happen in Japan, is discussed further below. In order to control the nuclear chain reaction, the reactor operators use control rods. The control rods are made of boron which absorbs neutrons. During normal operation in a BWR, the control rods are used to maintain the chain reaction at a critical state. The control rods are also used to shut the reactor down from 100% power to about 7% power (residual or decay heat). The residual heat is caused from the radioactive 8

decay of fission products. Radioactive decay is the process by which the fission products stabilize themselves by emitting energy in the form of small particles (alpha, beta, gamma, neutron, etc.). There is a multitude of fission products that are produced in a reactor, including cesium and iodine. This residual heat decreases over time after the reactor is shutdown, and must be removed by cooling systems to prevent the fuel rod from overheating and failing as a barrier to radioactive release. Maintaining enough cooling to remove the decay heat in the reactor is the main challenge in the affected reactors in Japan right now. It is important to note that many of this fission products decay (produce heat) extremely quickly, and become harmless by the time you spell R-A-D-I-O-N-UC-L-I-D-E. Others decay more slowly, like some cesium, iodine, strontium, and argon.

4.0 What happened at Fukushima (as of March 12, 2011) The following is a summary of the main facts. The earthquake that hit Japan was several times more powerful than the worst earthquake the nuclear power plant was built for (the Richter scale works logarithmically; for example the difference between an 8.2 and the 8.9 that happened is 5 times, not 0.7).When the earthquake hit, the nuclear reactors all automatically shut down. Within seconds after the earthquake started, the control rods had been inserted into the core and the nuclear chain reaction stopped. At this point, the cooling system has to carry away the residual heat, about 7% of the full power heat load under normal operating conditions. The earthquake destroyed the external power supply of the nuclear reactor. This is a challenging accident for a nuclear power plant, and is referred to as a loss of offsite power. The reactor and its backup systems are designed to handle this type of accident by including backup power systems to keep the coolant pumps working. Furthermore, since the power plant had been shut down, it cannot produce any electricity by itself. 9

For the first hour, the first set of multiple emergency diesel power generators started and provided the electricity that was needed. However, when the tsunami arrived (a very rare and larger than anticipated tsunami) it flooded the diesel generators, causing them to fail. One of the fundamental tenets of nuclear power plant design is Defense in Depth. This approach leads engineers to design a pla nt that can withstand severe catastrophes, even when several systems fail. A large tsunami that disables all the diesel generators at once is such a scenario, but the tsunami of March 11th was beyond all expectations. To mitigate such an event, engineers designed an extra line of defense by putting everything into the containment structure (Figure the plants at Fukushima are Boiling Water Reactors), that is designed to contain everything inside the structure. When the diesel generators failed after the tsunami, the reactor operators switched to emergency battery power. The batteries were designed as one of the backup systems to provide power for cooling the core for 8 hours. And they did. After 8 hours, the batteries ran out, and the residual heat could not be carried away any more. At this point the plant operators begin to follow emergency procedures that are in place for a loss of cooling event. These are procedural steps following the Depth in Defense approach. All of this, however shocking it seems to us, is part of the dayto-day training you go through as an operator. At this time people started talking about the possibility of core meltdown, because if cooling cannot be restored, the core will eventually melt (after several days), and will likely be contained in the containment. Note that the term meltdown has a vague definition. Fuel failure is a better term to describe the failure of the fuel rod barrier (Zircaloy). This will occur before the fuel melts, and results from mechanical, chemical, or thermal failures (too much pressure, too much oxidation, or too hot).However, melting was a long ways from happening and at this time, the


primary goal was to manage the core while it was heating up, while ensuring that the fuel cladding remain intact and operational for as long as possible. Because cooling the core is a priority, the reactor has a number of independent and diverse cooling systems (the reactor water cleanup system, the decay heat removal, the reactor core isolating cooling, the standby liquid cooling system, and others that make up the emergency core cooling system). Which one failed when or did not fail is not clear at this point in time. Since the operators lost most of their cooling capabilities due to the loss of power, they had to use whatever cooling system capacity they had to get rid of as much heat as possible. But as long as the heat production exceeds the heat removal capacity, the pressure starts increasing as more water boils into steam. The priority now is to maintain the integrity of the fuel rods by keeping the temperature below 1200C, as well as keeping the pressure at a manageable level. In order to maintain the pressure of the system at a manageable level, steam (and other gases present in the reactor) have to be released from time to time. This process is important during an accident so the pressure does not exceed what the components can handle, so the reactor pressure vessel and the containment structure are designed with several pressure relief valves. So to protect the integrity of the vessel and containment, the operators started venting steam from time to time to control the pressure. As mentioned previously, steam and other gases are vented. Some of these gases are radioactive fission products, but they exist in small quantities. Therefore, when the operators started venting the system, some radioactive gases were released to the environment in a controlled manner (ie in small quantities through filters and scrubbers). While some of these gases are radioactive, they did not pose a significant risk to public safety to even the workers on site. This procedure is justified as its consequences are very low, especially when compared to the potential consequences of not venting and risking the containment structures integrity. 11

During this time, mobile generators were transported to the site and some power was restored. However, more water was boiling off and being vented than was being added to the reactor, thus decreasing the cooling ability of the remaining cooling systems. At some stage during this venting process, the water level may have dropped below the top of the fuel rods. Regardless, the temperature of some of the fuel rod cladding exceeded 1200 C, initiating a reaction between the Zircaloy and water. This oxidizing reaction produces hydrogen gas, which mixes with the gas-steam mixture being vented. This is a known and anticipated process, but the amount of hydrogen gas produced was unknown because the operators didnt know the exact temperature of the fuel rods or the water level. Since hydrogen gas is extremely combustible, when enough hydrogen gas is mixed with air, it reacts with oxygen. If there is enough hydrogen gas, it will react rapidly, producing an explosion. At some point during the venting process enough hydrogen gas built up inside the containment (there is no air in the containment), so when it was vented to the air an explosion occurred. The explosion took place outside of the containment, but inside and around the reactor building (which has no safety function). Note that a subsequent and similar explosion occurred at the Unit 3 reactor. This explosion destroyed the top and some of the sides of the reactor building, but did not damage the containment structure or the pressure 12

vessel. While this was not an anticipated event, it happened outside the containment and did not pose a risk to the plants safety structures. Since some of the fuel rod cladding exceeded 1200 C, some fuel damage occurred. The nuclear material itself was still intact, but the surrounding Zircaloy shell had started failing. At this time, some of the radioactive fission products (cesium, iodine, etc.) started to mix with the water and steam. It was reported that a small amount of cesium and iodine was measured in the steam that was released into the atmosphere. Since the reactors cooling capability was limited, and the water inventory in the reactor was decreasing, engineers decided to inject sea water (mixed with boric acid a neutron absorber) to ensure the rods remain covered with water. Although the reactor had been shut down, boric acid is added as a conservative measure to ensure the reactor stays shut down. Boric acid is also capable of trapping some of the remaining iodine in the water so that it cannot escape, however this trapping is not the primary function of the boric acid. The water used in the cooling system is purified, demineralized water. The reason to use pure water is to limit the corrosion potential of the coolant water during normal operation. Injecting seawater will require more cleanup after the event, but provided cooling at the time. This process decreased the temperature of the fuel rods to a non-damaging level. Because the reactor had been shut down a long time ago, the decay heat had decreased to a significantly lower level, so the pressure in the plant stabilized, and venting was no longer required.


5.0 TRANSPORT PHENOMENA RELATION The Fukushima disaster has many relations with the transport phenomena principles. It can be related with the three basic transport which is energy transport, mass transport and momentum transport. 5.1 Energy Transport Energy transport is a principle that deals with the transfer of energy between two points in a system. The driving force for energy transport is the difference in temperature between the points. The scientific law used in this transport principle is Fouriers Law of Heat Conduction. In the Fukushima disaster, energy transport can be related to the heat suspended in the reactor. The reactors in the Fukushima plant are Boiling Water Reactors that produces electricity by boiling water to produce steam and spinning a turbine using that steam. This shows a relation in which heat transfer is applied in boiling the water. The difference in temperature between the water and the fuel rods has caused energy to move from the rods to the water. The reactors include a built in coolant system to cool the used steam back into water through condensation. The process involves the use of cooling water stream with temperature far lower than the steam to ensure that more energy from the steam being transferred to the cooling water. This ensures the system to always be in a steady working temperature condition. During the disaster, failures in the coolant system and all emergency cooling streams have caused the steam inside the generator not able to be cooled down. The fuel used which is Uranium Oxide is then heated by the energy from the steam due to the difference in temperature. Uranium Oxide received too much energy from the steam that it reached its melting point of 2800 C. The hot Uranium 14

Oxide melts down and causes the first barriers which are solid fuel pellets made of ceramic oxide matrix to also melt down. The Uranium Oxide then also melts the second barrier of Zircaloy casing and the third barrier which is the pressure vessel. 5.2 Mass Transport Mass transport is a principle that involves the transfer of mass by diffusion. This principle follows Ficks Law of Binary Diffusion. The driving force in this type of transport phenomenon is concentration profile between two points in a system. In the Fukushima plant reactor, there exists a forth barrier which is the containment structure that houses the entire primary loop of the nuclear reactor. This barrier consists of very thick structure made of steel and concrete and is air tight sealed. This is sturdy enough to contain the melting Uranium Oxide without being melted down itself. However, this can cause the fuel to become more reactive due to the heat not being able to transfer out and can cause serious explosion. To avoid a large destruction by explosion, the fourth barrier is opened to allow the vapourized fuel to flow out into the atmosphere while the liquid fuel are released into the seawater. The movement of vapourized fuel into the atmosphere is related to mass transport phenomenon. The vapourized fuel rich in radioactive substance diffuses into the atmosphere which has less to none radioactive content. This is due to the concentration difference of the radioactive substance. Vapourized fuel transfers its high concentration substituent towards the atmosphere and causes the hazardous radiation to the country. The liquid fuel being released from the reactor also contains high concentration of radioactive material. It spreads about through the sea by means of diffusion. This follows the principle of mass transport which is the transfer of substituent by concentration difference. 15

5.3 Momentum Transport Momentum transport is a principle in which kinetic energy is transferred between two points in a system. This transport phenomenon follows Newtons Law of Viscosity. The driving force in this principle is the transfer by bulk flow. Momentum goes downhill from a region of high velocity to a region of low velocity. There will be 2 contributions to force which is associated with the pressure and associated with the viscous force. Momentum can be transferred by the bulk flow of the fluid and this process is called convective transport. Other factor that depends on viscosity is pressure and temperature. In the Fukushima disaster, momentum transport can be related to the natural disaster that causes this incident. The Tohoku earthquake and the tsunami resulting from it are the causes of the incident. The Tohoku earthquake is a large earthquake scaling up to 9.0 on the Richter scale. This earthquake is caused by the momentum of the earth plates colliding and causes a difference in pressure between the plates. This pressure difference causes the plating to become imbalance thus resulting in a shaking of the earths crust. The earthquake causes a rundown in the energy supply of the Fukushima plant thus causing this disaster. The earthquake also creates a large difference in pressure between water flows in the sea near Fukushima. This causes velocity of water in a point to become higher and moves towards the area of water with low velocity at a high speed. The high velocity causes the water flow to become turbulent thus creating high tidal waves that moves at high speed and can cause serious destruction. This wave is categorised as a Tsunami wave. This Tsunami wave hits the Fukushima reactor and 16

causes the emergency equipment intact with the reactor to become malfunction and causes the reactor to become overheat and explode.

6.0 APPENDICES Appendix A: The explosive generator in Fukushimas power plant. Source: (Holt, 2012)

Appendix B: The precaution taken by Japanese government Source: (Campbell, 2012)


7.0 REFERENCES 1. Paulitz (2013). Japan Today: Government sticks to 3-year deadline on reactor restart decision. Retrieved from 2. Fekete L & Boda Z (2012). Knowledge, Sustainability and corporate strategies in case of the European energy sector. Journal of Environmental Studies (pg 274-309). New York: Mc Graw Hill. 3. Holt (2012). The Disaster of Fukushima. Retrieved from

4. Campbell (2012). The Fukushima Update. Retrieved from 5. Wikipedia (September ,2013) Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster ,Retrieved from 6. World Nuclear Association (September 2013) Fukushima Accidents Retrieved from