USA | GE Trio Quit in 1970s Over Japan Reactor Design, ABC Says

Posted on March 15, 2011

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USA | BLOOMBERG | Mar 15, 2011 10:46 PM GMT

General Electric Co. (GE)’s design for a nuclear reactor at a damaged Japanese power plant spurred the 1970s resignation of three employees over concern that its core might not withstand the loss of cooling systems in a severe accident, ABC News reported.

Japan is struggling to avert a meltdown at the Fukushima Dai-Ichi plant after cooling systems on so-called Mark 1 reactors were disabled in a March 11 tsunami that followed the country’s worst-ever earthquake.

Five of the six reactors at the facility use the Mark 1 design, ABC reported. Even after being retrofitted, they remain more susceptible to an accident that might breach the containment vessel, Dale G. Bridenbaugh, one of the three workers who stepped down about 35 years ago, told ABC.

GE said the reactors have a proven track record of reliable and safe performance, according to ABC. Fairfield, Connecticut- based GE is the world’s biggest supplier of power-generation equipment.

“Everything we’ve heard from our partners so far is that the plant operated as it was supposed to,” GE Power & Water Chief Executive Officer Steve Bolze said in an interview today with Bloomberg News.

While the 9.0-magnitude earthquake was stronger than Japan’s reactor-design requirements at the time, “from what we understand the problem was the tsunami, and that’s what took out auxiliary power” for the cooling systems, Bolze said.

Bridenbaugh said the design flaws that prompted his resignation eventually were remedied in refits at Mark 1 reactors at Fukushima Dai-Ichi and around the globe, according to the ABC report.

“They went back and re-analyzed the loads the structures might receive and beefed up the ability of the containment to handle greater loads,” Bridenbaugh told ABC. “The Mark 1 is still a little more susceptible to an accident that would result in a loss of containment.”

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