Hanford nuclear reactor described as 'more robust' than Japanese plants

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by GARY CHITTIM / KING 5 News

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KING5.com

Posted on March 15, 2011 at 7:14 PM

 

RICHLAND, Wash. -- The entire U.S. nuclear industry is defending its system and discouraging any comparisons to what is happening in earthquake and tsunami ravaged Japan.

"More robust" is how operators describe Energy Northwest's facility at Hanford, Washington State's only commercial nuclear power plant, when comparing it to the damaged plants in Japan.

"Don't jump to that comparison stage," cautioned Michael Paoli, Spokesman for Energy Northwest. "First of all, those plants in Japan did withstand the earthquake. It's that one-two punch of the tsunami that started them down the road they are on now."

Even though a tsunami is unlikely here, Hanford was designed to handle floods from the nearby Columbia River, even a breach at the Grand Coulee Dam upstream, said Paoli. 

Paoli said after September 11, the facility at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation was tested to handle even an impact from a passenger jetliner.

The plants are similar in that they both use the boiling water technique, but Paoli points out the Energy Northwest facility is 15 years newer, has stronger containment structures and has even more backup power sources including it's own steam generator.

Energy Northwest and the rest of the U.S. nuclear energy industry were enjoying renewed momentum when the Japan disaster hit and are now trying to head off any concerns that could slow it down. Daily pictures of a grim situation in Japan are making that difficult.

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