This research paper discusses the Three Mile Island incident to include what started it, the results in the aftermath, and how it could have been prevented. The Three Mile Island Unit 2 (TMI-2) reactor, near Middletown, Pa., partially melted down on March 28, 1979. This was the most serious accident in U.S. commercial nuclear power plant operating history, although its small radioactive releases had no detectable health effects on plant workers or the public. Its aftermath brought about sweeping changes involving emergency response planning, reactor operator training, human factors engineering, radiation protection, and many other areas of nuclear power plant operations. It also caused the NRC (Nuclear Regulatory Commission) to tighten and heighten its regulatory oversight. All of these changes significantly enhanced U.S. reactor safety. A combination of equipment malfunctions, design-related problems and worker errors led to TMI-2's partial meltdown and very small off-site releases of radioactivity.
What Happened at Three Mile Island?
There are three primary reasons that were directly responsible for what happened at Three Mile Island. Equipment design, mechanical malfunctions, and human error were the key contributors to the Three mile Island Unit 2 reactor melt down. The accident began about 4 a.m. on Wednesday, March 28, 1979. Either a mechanical or electrical problem stopped the water pumps from cooling the reactor core. This made the reactor overheat to the point of rupturing the long tubes that hold nuclear fuel pellets.
Instantly, the pressure in the primary system (the portion of the plant that is nuclear) started to rise. As a means to manage that pressure, the pilot-operated relief valve (the top valve of the pressurizer) opened. It is assumed that the valve should have closed when the pressure returned to proper levels; however, it remained in the open position. Instruments in the control room had the plant staff to believe that the valve was in the shut position. For this reason, the plant staff had no idea that cooling water was still coming out of the stuck-open valve. As a result 700,000 gallons of coolant continued from the primary system through the valve in to the basement of the primary reactor. Other instruments available to reactor operators provided inadequate information (ND, 2014).
Looking at the beginning of the accident, failure of the non-nuclear reactor main feed water pumps became the starting point of the whole incident. Mechanical error happened before any other errors at the actual nuclear reactor side of the power plant. The follow on problems showed a glaring design flaw of the system. This is a very good reason why US Army Soldiers undergo extensive training in radioactive equipment preventive maintenance, checks and services. They use many publications to include technical manuals, special bulletins, and training circulars. Army Soldiers train on identifying malfunctions, and...