In reaction to the earthquake and tsunami that struck Japan, the Fukushima boiling water reactors automatically shut down. However, within the first few hours, the site’s main cooling system failed to function properly. Though the nuclear chain reaction is no longer proceeding, the fuel rods still need to cool, explained Carnegie’s Mark Hibbs on CBC Radio. The fuel is surrounded by water, which is supposed to act as a coolant. However, Hibbs said, if the water around the core were to boil, then the fuel would be exposed. Though Japan has an advanced nuclear energy industry, this crisis prompts a need to reconsider whether older equipment, such as that used in the Fukushima reactors, is seismically sound.
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