Browns Ferry Nuclear Power Plant in Alabama: Resurrected
In March 1975,a single candle nearly burned one of the reactors at Browns Ferry to the ground exposing how unsafe the nation's nuclear power industry was at the time. The plant actually continued operating for another ten years before it was shut down in 1985. But now the ill-fated reactor is once again about to go nuclear and begin generating electricity.
Peter Gwynne the science editor for Newsweek in 1975 said this, in a recent radio broadcast interview on NPR, about the 1975 Browns Ferry reactor fire:
..."a couple of the technicians were in one of the corridors using a candle to sniff out air leaks which was the normal way of doing things at the time. They found a leak in an area where a lot of cables were going into the control room of the plant and they decided to repair it with polyurethane foam, which was again the standard way of doing things."Turns out the polyurethane foam was not fire proof.
"....when they tested two things happened. First they realized that they hadn't sealed up the leak. And second the leak that was there sucked in the flame and set the polyurethane on fire. And then the fire really took off despite all their efforts to control it."The fire was near the control room, which filled with smoke quite rapidly. From that point on it was like a comedy of errors
."....All of the safety systems or at least the first series of safety systems just didn't work. .... the pumping of the emergency water system started and then it stopped. And the water in the nuclear reactors, which protect the reactor from melting down, the water gradually started to drop and drop and drop. It dropped from around 200 inches above the fuel rods down to just about four feet. ....there was real panic in the plant at the time."
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