Three Mile Island Accident Essay

3348 words - 13 pages

“Nuclear energy had been touted as a cheap, reliable energy source ever since the first commercial reactor went into operation in 1957. Electricity would be too cheap to meter, the atomic industry boasted. But the reactors proved prohibitively expensive to construct and nuclear power became every bit as expensive as conventional forms.“In March 1979, the public’s faith in the safety of nuclear reactors-giant plants that generated power by the splitting of atoms- was undermined by an accident at Three Mile Island, a nuclear plant located ten miles from Harrisburg Pennsylvania, in the middle of the Susquehanna River.” (Gerstenzang 147)The near-meltdown from Three Mile Island Crisis would have a great effect on the industry of nuclear power and how the United States produced it’s energy.Three Mile Island Crisis started at four a.m. on March 28th, 1979 (Three Mile Island and the Future of Nuclear Energy). There was a clog in one of the pipes and the men working there had to clear it out, which was a regular occurrence. They shot air into the pipe in order to unclog it, which worked and then they went about their usual business at the power plant. What they didn’t know was that when they cleared out the pipe a cup’s worth of water had leaked out. This water was blown into the main turbines. This small amount of water caused the valves to automatically shut off because the water was interrupting the airflow into the valve. This is what started the Three Mile Island Crisis (Stephens 10).Even though the valves had stopped, the plant was still running at ninety-seven percent, which is enough to light 300,000 homes. Then, two feed water pumps have failed in the secondary cooling system which meant that there wasn’t any water circulating to remove heat from the unit so the temperature and the pressure rose dramatically. An electromagnetic relief valve opened and shot steam- five-hundred degrees at 1000 pounds per square inch- into a storage tank which lowered the pressure. While this was happening a turbine stopped and another valve released even more steam. The steam released this time was steam that would be have been used to make electricity. Within nine seconds of all this occurring silver and boron rods fell into place among zirconium rods. These silver and boron rods absorbed neutrons, which stopped the chain reaction. This action is called a “scram” and worked exactly like it was supposed to. The pressure in the cooling system returned to a safe level. At this point the electrometric valve should have closed, but it stayed open, releasing radioactive coolant into the holding tanks. Once these tanks were full the safety plate burst and the water was spilling onto the floor of the containment building (Stephens 12).The gages in the operating room said that the valve had closed., but they hadn’t. Because the valve stayed open, the cooling system’s temperature continued to drop, but the entire...

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