These power stations were hit by a 9.0 earthquake followed immediately by a massive tsunami. Normally a nuclear reactor is shutdown by lowering their control rods. For some reason this did not occur, probably because the backup power was also disabled by both the quake and tsunami. In addition the Japanese reactors are old technology that have "fail safe" design flaws that have been corrected with the new Gen IV reactors.
It is interesting that during the Three Mile Island incident a hydrogen bubble also developed in the containment building. Scientists at the Idaho National Lab imitated the conditions in a test reactor and concluded that the hydrogen would not explode allowing President Carter to visit Three Mile Island. His glance at the control room instrumentation was reassuring to everyone, I'm sure.
This is not the end of nuclear power we will learn a lot from this experience, like everything it's a process of continual improvement. We learn something from every airplane crash - learn, improve and keep flying.
WHY would the Japanese nuclear situation affect power plants HERE? This is not a seismically active area. We are in no danger here of an earthquake wrecking a nuclear plant. The quake in Japan was a once in a forever event. There have been countless earthquakes in Japan that did not affect the nuclear plants. There MIGHT be reason for concern about some plants in California that are built near faults, but the South Texas Project at Bay City and any future nuclear plant near here would not be threatened.
Kiss these projects good bye. The Japanese investment here just had a meltdown.
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