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Three Mile Island Shuts Down After Pump Failure 247

SchrodingerZ writes "The nuclear power station on Three Mile Island in Pennsylvania shut down abruptly this afternoon. Its shutdown was caused when one of four coolant pumps for a reactor failed to work. 'The Unit 1 reactor shut off automatically about 2:20 p.m., the plant's owner, Exelon Corporation, reported. There is no danger to the public, but the release of steam in the process created "a loud noise heard by nearby residents," the company said.' If radiation was released into the environment, it is so low that it thus far has not been detected. The plant is a 825-megawatt pressurized water reactor, supplying power to around 800,000 homes, thought there has been no loss of electrical service. Three Mile Island was the site of a partial nuclear meltdown in 1979. The Unit 2 reactor has not been reactivated since."
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Three Mile Island Shuts Down After Pump Failure

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday September 21, 2012 @12:34AM (#41407701)

    But, to be fair, isn't this how these things are suppose to work? Something fails, everything gracefully shuts down?

  • by fredgiblet ( 1063752 ) on Friday September 21, 2012 @12:40AM (#41407725)

    Not that that's going to stop the shitstorm
  • Add it all up (Score:5, Insightful)

    by medcalf ( 68293 ) on Friday September 21, 2012 @12:56AM (#41407793) Homepage
    Embassy attacks. Crap economy. Foreign policy humiliation. Three Mile Island. Am I the only one who didn't like 1979 the first time, and don't want a replay?
  • by ozmanjusri ( 601766 ) <> on Friday September 21, 2012 @01:45AM (#41408015) Journal


    I'll reserve judgement on what's actually happened, because this industry has a history of salamitaktic, lying, cover-ups and manipulation of public opinion.

    It's possible this innocuous announcement is the start of a series of press-releases, each admitting to progressively worse problems. If that's the case, all the Pollyannas on Slashdot will have vanished by the time the real scope of the event is clear.

  • by bcmm ( 768152 ) on Friday September 21, 2012 @04:45AM (#41408645)
    To be fair to the shitstorm, there are historical reasons to be a bit worried when Exelon describe something as a planned release of steam with minimal release of radioactive material. Lets hold out for the NRC report.
  • by tehcyder ( 746570 ) on Friday September 21, 2012 @05:11AM (#41408749) Journal

    Implying Three Mile Island was even a big deal.

    If this was a fucking software discussion I'd be calling you a paid shill for the nuclear power industry now and getting modded up for it.

    But as the slashdot groupthink is that anyone who is not 100% a cheerleader for nuclear power is some tree-hugging commie, we all know what will happen.

  • by zmooc ( 33175 ) <zmooc&zmooc,net> on Friday September 21, 2012 @05:51AM (#41408873) Homepage

    As far as I'm aware (and that's not that far, but far enough to reply to this) this kind of pressurized water reactor cannot really shutdown very gracefully. Once such a reactor gets going at normal power levels for some time, it can not shutdown very quickly. The best it can do, is to stop most of the fission reaction (in this case probably a so called Emergency SCRAM). Afterward the SCRAM, the fuel rods will still be Pretty Hot and initially they will still produce about 7% of their normal power due to fission product decay. After a day that's down to about 0.4%, which in this case would still be something like 4 megawatts or so. More than enough to keep things in a closed, well-isolated reactor Really Hot for months to come.

    So, in fact, the shutdown-sequence is not graceful at all; it is an extended process that requires active cooling (and therefore working power) and supervision and will result in disaster if it is interrupted for some amount of time.

  • by khallow ( 566160 ) on Friday September 21, 2012 @08:00AM (#41409355)
    And here we see a member of the "NUKLYUR EVIL!!" crowd in action. Unconfirmable anecdote combined with unrealistic solutions. Bonus points for whining that someone thinks solution will be too "socialist".

    Here's my take. As to "jam tomorrow", it's worth remembering that nuclear plants normally maintain their primary promise, delivering power cheaply.

    It needs to be tightly controlled by people with no vested financial interest in it

    It is, via NRC.

  • by jellomizer ( 103300 ) on Friday September 21, 2012 @08:19AM (#41409465)

    Yes, if this was a coal or natural gas plant such an issue wouldn't even make the news. But it is a Scary Nuclear Power plant then it must mean there is a HUGE Poroblem even though the fail safes all worked correctly. Because Nuclear is Scary.

    I am not saying Nuclear is Clean, Safe to Cheap to Meter. But really it is one of our better power sources, and we should be sure that we support nuclear and support proper regulation on this energy source as it has a lot of long term dangerous elements to it.

    Stop falling to the propaganda of both parties who say either we should go Nuclear and at the same time think the industry will self regulate. Or avoid nuclear all together because you can't trust industries to self regulate.

  • Pansies (Score:5, Insightful)

    by smooth wombat ( 796938 ) on Friday September 21, 2012 @08:24AM (#41409485) Journal

    I live within the 10 mile "danger" zone (cue Kenny Loggins) and lived through the initial incident in 79. In fact, I was out delivering papers every day during the entire incident.

    This is nothing to be mentioned on a tech site. It has no relevance whatsoever other than the fact that the system did what it was supposed to.

    Stop the panicking and hyperbole about how bad nuclear energy is. Compared to the amount of health related issues coal has produced, nuclear energy ranks about as dangerous as rabbit attacks

  • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 ) <> on Friday September 21, 2012 @09:16AM (#41409909) Homepage Journal

    That's not what fail safe means. In this case when the pump failed a number of things had to happen for the failure to be safe. The reactor probably SCRAMed and emergency cooling kicked in. Without those systems and careful management by staff the reactor could fail like Fukushima did.

    If it were fail safe the failure of the pump itself would have made the whole thing completely shut down into a safe and inactive state. I used to work in fire suppression for buildings and when we had a fire door that was "fail safe" that meant it was held locked shut by an electro magnet, so if the power failed for some reason it would automatically unlock and allow people to escape. In fact even if the control system stopped communicating it would open. No action by anyone or anything else required.

  • by J'raxis ( 248192 ) on Friday September 21, 2012 @11:46AM (#41411765) Homepage

    Why is this a story?

    Because a simple mechanical device failed? Wow, that's news. Because the safety measured at the plant functioned exactly as designed? Yup, that's certainly news. Because the residents in the area heard a loud noise? Stop the presses!

    Or because when anything happens at a nuclear power plant---including it functioning exactly as designed---the anti-nuclear luddites and other assorted fearmongers leap on the (non-)story in order to push their agenda?

Perfection is acheived only on the point of collapse. - C. N. Parkinson