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British scientist predicted nuclear power station problem

 
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Aurora



Joined: 24 Jan 2007
Posts: 8502

PostPosted: Thu Mar 17, 2011 8:47 am    Post subject: British scientist predicted nuclear power station problem Reply with quote

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Cambridge Network - 16/03/11

Way back in 1967, a young UK nuclear scientist, Peter Harrop, laboured to complete his PhD thesis under the sponsorship of the United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority. It showed that well used water-cooled nuclear reactors had a vulnerability...

The zirconium alloy used to clad the nuclear fuel becomes more chemically reactive after a prolonged and massive dose of neutrons caused by very extensive use. The thesis and the scientific papers resulting were quietly ignored.

After all, at the time, the UK generated electricity using gas-cooled nuclear reactors considered to be far safer. It only deployed water cooled nuclear reactors where their small size was essential - in nuclear submarines - and these were unlikely to be operated for many decades or pushed to their limits. Indeed, massive over design was the order of the day for nuclear reactors in Europe and any Westerner suggesting siting a nuclear power station in an area subject to violent earthquakes would have been subject to a dry laugh.

Dr. Peter Harrop, still a practicing scientist, explains, "When the outer building of the Japanese Fukushima No 1 reactor massively exploded, it was speculated that this was caused by hydrogen emitted from the overheated zirconium fuel cladding being in contact with cooling water. It is possible that, if this is true, just one of the contributory factors was that the zirconium alloy and its protective oxide film had built up neutron damage over nearly 40 years. Indeed the plant was about to be decommissioned in one month, having been commissioned in 1971."

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