The Three Mile Island Near Disaster

2313 words - 9 pages

On an early morning in late March of 1979, an event was triggered that would change the United States and the world's view on nuclear power forever. It would bring about changes in regulations, changes in operation, and changes in the structure of nuclear power plants for the years to come. It made power plants safer, cleaner, and more efficient because of the knowledge gained from the event.It was 3 A.M. in a small town set in the middle of Pennsylvania. In fact, the town was named Middletown. It was here on March 28, 1979, that an event that would scare the people of Pennsylvania and even the rest of the country would begin. It was very warm in the Unit 2 reactor building of Three Mile Island: close to 100 degrees. But this was normal for a nuclear reactor. They are almost always a hot, humid, and steamy place to be. They are also loud. Pipes bang and shutter with the pressure of millions of gallons of water moving through every day. These all important pipes, three feet in diameter, carried the water to the reactor's turbines, so it could be cooled. Crashes were common at reactors due the huge pressure and force being produced from things, like water and pipes, rapidly cooling and reheating. All in all, the Unit 2 building of Three Mile Island was an unpleasant place to be.There were also huge resin filters at Three Mile Island. These were used to filter the unclean water from the Susquehanna river, so it could be used to run the turbines to make electricity. The filters were flushed once a week to clean out the dirty residue left behind by the river water. However, this night, there was a plug of debris blocking the vent where the filters were flushed clean. This plug was eventually forced out with a blast of air, but because of their haste to get the filters up and running again, the workers left some water, less than a glassful on an instrument panel. The water drifted through the air system of the plant which powered numerous pneumatic valves on a wide variety of machines. Eventually some of the water made its way to the control valves of the feedwater pumps to the main turbines. These valves close automatically if something, like water, interrupts the flow of air in any way. It was hard to believe but, less than a glassful of water was about to start the accident at Three Mile Island.(Stephens 9).Due to the closing of the feedwater pump valves, both of the two feedwater pumps failed at Unit 2. This resulted in a devastating blow to the reactor. Due to the lack of water reaching the reactor and its turbines, no heat was being removed from them. However, within nine seconds of lack of heat removal, almost 70 control rods made of boron and silver fell into place beside the nearly 37,000 zirconium fuel rods that held the millions of uranium dioxide fuel. These rods did their duty: stopped the chemical reaction in the reactor. This should have triggered a relief valve to close; that would have cut off the flow of radioactive steam from the...

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