Tuesday, May 17, 2011

More on why seawater infiltrated the cooling system at the Hamaoka plant

The above is a nice infographic from Asahi News and its associated article.  I wasn't aware of this yesterday, but seawater is used at the plant to condense (convert back to water) massive amounts of steam that are produced by the reactor.

Once the steam is converted back to water, that water is sent back into the reactor to resume the cooling process. The piping for each task is separate, one system is dedicated for water coming from the ocean and the other for the reactor, but they occupy a common area within the condenser.

Since there is always a risk of damage to pipes and possible entry of salt water into the fresh water reactor system, sensors and ion exchange purifiers are set-up to detect abnormal concentrations of saline, and eliminate very small amounts from solution until the problem can be fixed. 

The big questions here - what caused the leak, and why didn't the sensors pick it up sooner, resulting in 400++ tons of water contaminating the reactor side of the system?  Are the sensors also broken or was someone not paying attention to the computer screen?  My contention is that coming off the heels of Fukushima, this sort of oversight and poor reaction time should not be happening.  The way Murphy has made his rounds around the country, they are lucky it didn't escalate into a bigger problem.

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