The Spark

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.” — Karl Marx

The years we almost lost Toledo

Apr 1, 2002

On March 11, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission announced that acid had eaten away a 6-inch chunk of steel covering the lid on a nuclear reactor at the Davis-Besse nuclear power plant about 25 miles east of Toledo, Ohio. All that was left to stop radioactive water from bursting out of the reactor vessel was a 3/8 inch stainless steel liner. And this liner had begun to bulge outward under 2200 pounds of pressure per square inch.

If this thin liner had given way, the results could have been catastrophic. Radioactive water would have rushed into the reactor’s containment vessel, and this might have short circuited the reactor’s cooling system. In other words the reactor could have undergone a “meltdown.”

None of the inspections done every two years detected either the boric acid leak or the eating away of the lid – despite estimates that this has been going on for at least 12 years.

Nor did the plant operators do anything when rust particles began to be detected in the air filters two years ago – a sign that nuclear power experts say should have tipped off the plant’s operators that something was seriously wrong.

As for the NRC, it did not require any extra inspections of Davis- Besse (or of 67 other similar nuclear reactors) when this type of reactor in South Carolina owned by Duke Energy Corporation developed cracks a year ago.

This certainly puts the lie to all those claims that the nuclear power industry is becoming safer. It’s just being inspected less thoroughly!