Nuclear Briefing Describe How The Reactor At Three Mile Island (Or Chernobyl) Was Supposed To Work. What Went Wrong And What Are The Implications Of The Accident?

1258 words - 5 pages

NUCLEAR BRIEFINGDescribe how the reactor at Three Mile Island (or Chernobyl) was supposed to work. What went wrong and what are the implications of the accident?On 26th April 1986, what was described as "The world's worst nuclear disaster" occurred at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in the Ukraine. 190 tons of highly radioactive uranium and graphite were expelled into the atmosphere. The result was an international ecological disaster and as such the issue of safety in nuclear reactors like that at Chernobyl needs to be addressed and the dangers assessed.The staffs at Chernobyl nuclear plant were to complete one final test that would serve as a proof that their power plant would survive a sudden energy blackout. The goal of the test was to show that the nuclear reactor 4 could be "rebooted" in the absence of any external energy sourcesHowever, there were a number of dangerous measures taken in the operating procedure. The test required the automatic control system to be switched off. Also, the emergency core cooling system was also turned off for the duration of the test because the chief plant engineer decided it, based on the fear that it will be dangerous if the cooling water from the emergency tanks enters into the hot reactor. Finally, both emergency diesel generators were turned off, in order to simulate a "pure" experiment.During the test several things went wrong. With the automatic control system off the operators could not maintain the rector power under the devised limit. The power required for the test was only a few hundred MW however the reactor went 10 times lower than expected (30MW thermal)At this point the reactor should have been shutdown, and a regular start-up been scheduled the next months. But an immediate restart was attempted as a quick "cover-up" for the earlier mistake. This didn't work because the concentration of Xenon dramatically increased, making restart impossibleThe test went on despite this, under the impatient management of the deputy chief engineer. He ordered that, one by one, the remaining control rods to be retracted from the core. The rods were withdrawn until the reactor was raised at approx. 200 MW thermal, with very few remaining control rods in the core. At this point the reactor was in extremely unstable state.The operators tried to manually shutdown the reactor. However, when the safety rods were introduced in the core, the reactivity actually increased for a few seconds due to a fault in the design of the rod. The huge generated heat caused several large explosions that blew away the 1000-ton reactor lid and destroyed the top of the building. Due to the lack of containment, the core was now directly exposed to atmosphere, releasing hundreds of millions of Curie in the environment for the next days.The Uranium used in nuclear reactors is extracted from stockpiles of uranium ore in the earth; it is then crushed and ground where excess water is removed from the ore. In leaching tanks, sulfuric acid...

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