Independent from Long Beach, California on March 18, 1976 · Page 72
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Independent from Long Beach, California · Page 72

Long Beach, California
Issue Date:
Thursday, March 18, 1976
Page 72
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fmt \TMX^*?Mi$£§n.\m lo "9 BMch P - I 3 Z - I , P-AZ-2, P-9Z-4 p.? 7,3; Desert tests to probe nuclear power plants safety^ 5 , s BvDEANLOKKEN .IDAHO FALLS, Idaho (AP) - Thirty miles west of' here, on a sagebmsh plateau occupied mostly by- jackrabbits, scientists ace preparing a long- awaited series of t e s t s they hope will help answer a;haunting question about nuclear power plants: Arc Ih'ey safe? The tests will be con- d u c t e d in a nine-story vS'H.ite d o m e d structure whjch houses a nuclear reactor similar to those being used in 56 plants rtjow operated by utility companies in v a r i o u s parts of the c o u n t r y . These p l a n t s generate eight per cent of the nation's electricity. · The complex safety systems of the commercial reactors have never been fully tested u n d e r real emergency conditions -the bursting of pipes and other mishaps that could lead to the release of radioactive steam or the melt-down of a nuclear fu'ef core, releasing deadly contaminants into the environment. f '.SUCH TESTS arc to begin ala desert site near hfre next year and they probably will continue into the 1980s, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission IflRQsays. -Once preliminary tests ahe completed this year, scientists deliberately will pjrmil a test reactor to fail, mostly by releasing fS water t h a t shields and M cools the nuclear f u e l M core. ·]} Tlf d e a d l y radioactive ·i; rrjalerial is released, there ;·: won't be much danger, the · : NRC says, for the reactor '·'.. i$ at the Idaho National f., Engineering Laboratory, sji located on a government p reservation nearly three- fourths the size of Rhode Island. Most of the reser- v'ation is u n i n h a b i t e d desert. '^Dick Blackledge, public relations officer at the federally run I d a h o National Engineering Laboratory, said the loss-off f u i d tests -- dubbed LOFT -- are designed to simulate as' closely as possible actual operating and emergency conditions of a commercial reactor. :EVEN BEFORE the tests b e g i n , h o w e v e r , critics of nuclear reactors question whether they will resolve the ever more complicated and controversial problem of reactor safety. The Union of Concerned S c i e n t i s t s , for ejample, s a y s the lest reactor is only a fraction of the size of many com- t q c r c i a l r e a c t o r s a n d therefore too small to produce reliable d a t a for large reactors. ^Thc debate over nuclear s a f e t y intensified l a s t njpnlh a f t e r three engineers who worked for the division of the General Electric Co. that builds nuclear reactors quit their jobs because, they said, nyclear energy represents a.(hreat lo mankind. A few days later, Robert D. Pollard, an NRC project manager, resigned to protest what he called the NRC's policy of "telling the public that plants are safe when there is no scientific basis for that." Above all, those who doubt the safety of nuclear power plants are fearful lhat a nuclear core, cooled by w a t e r , would heat uncontrollably if the water were suddenly d r a i n e d ftom the core. Ihrough accident or sabotage. In such an event, an "emergency core cooling system" would be activated t» flood the core. , It is this system that is I being tested here. Without 1 it, the core of any reactor I might melt through the [reactor's base, pos^X I r e l e a s i n g r a d i o a c t i v e j materials into the environ] ment. T h o u s a n d s of l i v e s J might be endangered if ( t h e damaged reactor is 1 ner an urban center. ·Those with confidence I iri the safely of nuclear I reactors -- including the I NRC, which cites a major Isiudy that says nuclear 1 plants are extremely un- Ilikely to produce f a t a l I accidents -- play down the I fears of critics. "It all goes back to the I mushroom cloud," says l l . a r r y Ybarrondo. a nu- I c l e a r scientist at Idaho Falls. "And some people let that take the place of good reason." Ybarrondo works for A e p r j c t N u c l e a r Co., which runs the testing program here under government contract. He is program manager for the toss-of-fluid tests. In preliminary tests the rest of this year, the reactor will be heated only by an electrically operated core. The critical testing w i t h nuclear f u e l w i l l b e g i n in mid-1917, Ybar- rondo said. The man-made mishaps will be caused by opening large valves placed strategically on some of the many pipes through which the reactor's water circulates. The valves will be set in different tests to open at varying speeds and degrees to simulate pipe bursts or leaks that could occur in a real accident. The government has not decided how far the reactor will be pushed. Each step in the test series will be m o r e critical, w i t h each "accident" m o r e serious than the previous. "It's possible that we could run a test to dc- struct the reactor or cause fuel damage," says Ybar- rondo. In one of the later scries, the scientists may run the reactor at "100 per cent power but change operation of the safety program. For instance, let only one-half of the 'safety system work and only one- lialf the coolant reach the core." A visitor to the t e s t reactor sees hundreds of horizontal and v e r t i c a l pipes and thousands of feet of electrical wiring surrounding the c o r e , which holds metal f u e l rods 5Vi feel long. There arc hundreds of v a l v e s to control s u c h (lungs as water flow and pressure d u r i n g e x p e r i - ments. One scientist says setting up the reactor (or a lest is like playing a huge pipe organ. "We will move only a couple of valves during the experiment. A h a l t dozen or so will be manipulated in thclast moment. H u n d r e d s of o t h e r s already' w i l l be aligned," said Ybarrondo. The initial tests wi;!i nuclear fuel are planned to take only minutes. Aboul TOO d i f f e r e n t m e a s u r e - ments of the safety system will be taken by computer in that short span. "In one to two minutes, it's all over. Data will be recorded and seven days later we'll have a reporl out," says Ybarrondo. During the tests, 15 to 20 operators, technicians and data specialists will be at the reactor. All have been trained for speedy evacuation in case radioactive matter is released. The l a b o r a t o r y is regularly monitored front the air for releases of ra- dioactivity. O t h e r monitors cheek water in ground wells. BEAUTIFUL NAILS CAN BE YOURS! with sculplured noil extensions, Gives you long beautiful nails. ALSO SPECIALIZING IN » NAIL ART · NAIL WRAPS » MANICURES * PEDICURES SLEEK NAIL BOUTIQUE 1917 IJMIP BiMrh B!., M i x . K n o l l s -m-RSi mpeiig '. . TM · ~**J · NYLON PILE A durable fine carpet fiber in beautiful colors. Use In any room of your home. NOW ONLY HI-LOPILE HI-Lo Loop with double jute backing. Resists fuzzing and pilling. NOW ONLY _/ V; -\ TRI-COLOR SHAG LUXURIOUS HI-LO SHAG THIS SPECIAL 4 DAYS ONLY SQUARE YARD Wide color Choice Designed to accent any decor. 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