Tom Zeller Jr. explains the system of a Mark 1 nuclear reactor, like the one currently failing at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant. He reveals that experts had long cautioned about the weak design of these reactors and predicted a possible nuclear disaster.
The warnings were stark and issued repeatedly as far back as 1972: If the cooling systems ever failed at a “Mark 1” nuclear reactor, the primary containment vessel surrounding the reactor would probably burst as the fuel rods inside overheated. Dangerous radiation would spew into the environment.
Now, with one Mark 1 containment vessel damaged at the embattled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant and other vessels there under severe strain, the weaknesses of the design — developed in the 1960s by General Electric — could be contributing to the unfolding catastrophe.