Tuesday, March 15, 2011

General Electric-designed reactors in Fukushima have 23 sisters in U.S.


The General Electric-designed nuclear reactors involved in the Japanese emergency are very similar to 23 reactors in use in the United States, according to Nuclear Regulatory Commission records.

The NRC database of nuclear power plants shows that 23 of the 104 nuclear plants in the U.S. are GE boiling-water reactors with GE's Mark I systems for containing radioactivity, the same containment system used by the reactors in trouble at the Fukushima Daiichi plant. The U.S. reactors are in Alabama, Georgia, Illinois, Iowa, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Vermont.

In addition, 12 reactors in the U.S. have the later Mark II or Mark III containment system from GE. These 12 are in Illinois, Louisiana, Mississippi, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Washington state. See the full list below.

(General Electric is a parent company of msnbc.com through GE's 49 percent stake in NBC Universal. NBCUniversal and Microsoft are equal partners in msnbc.com.)

Msnbc.com sent questions Saturday to GE Energy, asking whether the Japanese reactors differed from those of the same general design used in the U.S.

A GE spokesman, Michael Tetuan, referred all questions to the Nuclear Energy Institute, an industry trade and lobbying group. Tetuan said GE nuclear staff members in Wilmington, N.C., are focused on assisting GE employees in Japan and standing by to help the Japanese authorities if asked to help.

The six reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi power plant, which had the explosion on Saturday, are all GE-designed boiling-water reactors, according to the anti-nuclear advocacy group Nuclear Information and Resource Service. The group says that five have containment systems of GE's Mark I design, and the sixth is of the Mark II type. They were placed in operation between 1971 and 1979.

A fact sheet from the group contends that the Mark I design has design problems, and that in 1972 an Atomic Energy Commission member, Dr. Stephen Hanuaer, recommended that this type of system be discontinued.

"Some modifications have been made to U.S. Mark I reactors since 1986, although the fundamental design deficiencies remain," NIRS said. The group has a commentary online describing what it says are hazards of boiling-water reactors: human invervention needed to vent radioactive steam in the case of a core meltdown, and problems with aging.

Since the earthquake struck Japan on Friday, the early statements by the industry's Nuclear Industry Institute have emphasized that only six plants in the U.S. have precisely the same generation of reactor design (GE boiling-water reactor model 3) as the first reactor to have trouble in Fukushima Daiichi. Problems then developed at different reactors of GE model 4.

But aside from the generation of reactor design, the following 23 U.S. plants have GE boiling-water reactors (GE models 2, 3 or 4) with the same Mark I containment design used at Fukushima, according to the NRC's online database:
   • Browns Ferry 1, Athens, Alabama, operating license since 1973, reactor type GE 4.
   • Browns Ferry 2, Athens, Alabama, 1974, GE 4.
   • Browns Ferry 3, Athens, Alabama, 1976, GE 4.
   • Brunswick 1, Southport, North Carolina, 1976, GE 4.
   • Brunswick 2, Southport, North Carolina, 1974, GE 4.
   • Cooper, Brownville, Nebraska, 1974, GE 4.
   • Dresden 2, Morris, Illinois, 1970, GE 3.
   • Dresden 3, Morris, Illinois, 1971, GE 3.
   • Duane Arnold, Palo, Iowa, 1974, GE 4.
   • Fermi 2, Monroe, Michigan, 1985, GE 4.
   • FitzPatrick, Scriba, New York, 1974, GE 4.
   • Hatch 1, Baxley, Georgia, 1974, GE 4.
   • Hatch 2, Baxley, Georgia, 1978, GE 4.
   • Hope Creek, Hancock's Bridge, New Jersey, 1986, GE 4.
   • Monticello, Monticello, Minnesota, 1970, GE 3.
   • Nine Mile Point 1, Scriba, New York, 1969, GE 2.
   • Oyster Creek, Forked River, New Jersey, 1969, GE 2.
   • Peach Bottom 2, Delta, Pennsylvania, 1973, GE 4.
   • Peach Bottom 3, Delta, Pennsylvania, 1974,  GE 4.

   • Pilgrim, Plymouth, Massachusetts, 1972, GE 3.
   • Quad Cities 1, Cordova, Illinois, 1972, GE 3.
   • Quad Cities 2, Moline, Illinois, 1972, GE 3.
   • Vermont Yankee, Vernon, Vermont, 1972, GE 4.

And these 12 newer GE boiling-water reactors have a Mark II or Mark III design:
   • Clinton, Clinton, Illinois, 1987, GE 6, Mark III.
   • Columbia Generating Station, Richland, Washington, 1984, GE 5, Mark II.
   • Grand Gulf, Port Gibson, Mississippi, 1984, GE 6, Mark III.
   • LaSalle 1, Marseilles, Illinois, 1982, GE 5, Mark II.
   • LaSalle 2, Marseilles, Illinois, 1983, GE 5, Mark II.
   • Limerick 1, Limerick, Pennsylvania, 1985, GE 4, Mark II.
   • Limerick 2, Limerick, Pennsylvania, 1989, GE 4, Mark II.
   • Nine Mile Point 2, Scriba, New York, 1987, GE 5, Mark II.
   • Perry, Perry, Ohio, 1986, GE 6, Mark III.
   • River Bend, St. Francisville, Louisiana, 1985, GE 6, Mark III.
   • Susquehanna 1, Salem Township, Pennsylvania, 1982, GE 4, Mark II.
   • Susquehanna 2, Salem Township, Pennsylvania, 1984, GE 4, Mark II.

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