Update: April 6, 2011: We’ve added new details about GE’s disaster relief efforts following a visit to Japan by GE Chairman and CEO Jeff Immelt.
Update: March 18, 2011: Read “Setting the Record Straight on Mark I Containment” about the performance of the nuclear reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi Power Plant.
Update: March 17, 2011: We’ve added new details regarding our disaster relief efforts in Japan.
Update: March 16, 2011. Click here to read about the Mark I containment units used at the reactors.
Update: March 15, 2011: GE’s thoughts and condolences continue to be with the people of Japan affected by the devastating impact of last Friday’s unprecedented natural disaster. And GE officials continue to closely monitor the events at the Fukushima Daiichi Power Plant, which suffered a loss of power after the tsunami struck the site.
During the magnitude 9.0 earthquake (the fifth largest earthquake in recorded history), the GE Boiling Water Reactors (BWR), performed as designed and initiated safe shut down processes. We understand that the back-up generators performed as designed to begin the cooling process. Shortly thereafter, we understand that the tsunami disabled the back-up emergency generation systems.
Immediately following the earthquake and tsunami, Hitachi-GE Nuclear Energy (GE’s nuclear joint venture with Hitachi based in Japan) communicated to the Japanese Government and Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO), the plant operator, that we were ready to assist them. The GE and Hitachi alliance assembled incident response and engineering teams in Tokyo and Wilmington, NC to provide 24/7 support.
While TEPCO is managing the response efforts, GE has been offering its assistance from the beginning and is now taking a number of additional actions, including:
- Providing technical assistance to TEPCO through our joint venture partners in Japan
- Providing technical assistance to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), which is in turn providing assistance to the Japanese government
- GE’s cross-functional business teams are coordinating engineering and project resources as well as equipment availabilities to support equipment delivery in Japan. GE’s Aeroderivative business is working to send 10 GE truck-mounted gas turbines (TM2500 22.5MW) which can provide temporary power. Units are available and we are working with partners to prioritize needs and finalize arrangements.
- Engaging our network of more than 1,000 engineers within GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy to provide technical assistance to the NRC, Nuclear Energy Institute, the government of Japan and TEPCO.
- The fleet of GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy (GEH) BWR reactors has a proven track record of performing reliably and safely for more than 40 years.
- GE has been in the nuclear industry for more than half a century. There are currently 92 GE-built BWR plants and plants using the licensed GE BWR design operating globally. Our BWR designs meet the rigorous regulatory requirements of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) and other government regulators and have proven to be safe and reliable. Our reactors are one of the workhorses of the industry.
- The Unit 1 reactor at the Fukushima Daiichi site went into commercial operation in 1971; it is a BWR-3, with a Mark I containment system. That means that the reactor is the third generation of the BWR design. The reactor in Unit 1 is the same type as several reactors in the U.S., although every reactor is designed specifically for each project and site. All GEH BWR designs meet all NRC requirements for safe operation during and after an earthquake for the areas where they are licensed and sited.
- BWR reactors are designed to be able to safely shutdown in the event of an earthquake or other natural disaster.
What is GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy?
- The global nuclear alliance was formed by combining GE and Hitachi’s nuclear businesses. The timeline at the bottom shows how GE and Hitachi independently progressed since the 1950s, ultimately combining operations in 2007 to create GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy.
- In 2010, GEH had approximately $1 billion in revenue for GE.
- Our global nuclear alliance is recognized as the world’s foremost developer of boiling water reactors, robust fuel cycle products, and highly valued nuclear plant services. Beginning in the 1950s, we developed breakthrough light water technology with the Boiling Water Reactor (BWR). Since that time, GE has developed nine evolutions of BWR technology including the ABWR, the world’s first operational Generation III Class advanced light water design and, most recently, the ESBWR, our latest Generation III+ Class design that combines advanced safety features, improved economics, and new operational efficiencies. The first ABWR became operational in Japan in 1996.
- GEH also offers a wide range of services that can improve performance, increase power output, and extend plant life.
- GEH’s fuel cycle business supplies reliable fuel products and services to utilities all around the globe.
- Japan, like most countries with nuclear power, has a channeling law under which the operator and government are liable for damage to third parties and the operator carries insurance. Suppliers bear no liability under the law.
The following links are supplied by the Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI) and offer additional information on the situation in Japan:
Nuclear Energy Situation in Japan: This page includes frequently asked questions about the situation with Japan’s nuclear energy plants, a time line of events, graphics of the nuclear power reactors and other general statistics on Japan’s nuclear energy program.
Radiation and Japan’s Nuclear Energy Plants: This page provides background information on radiation, including its different sources, how it is measured, and the ways federal authorities protect the public and workers from radiation exposure. It also explains how the Japanese plant operators are using a process called “venting” to manage the temperature and pressure of the reactor vessels and protect the integrity of the primary containment.
Reactor Designs:This page describes how nuclear plants are designed and constructed to withstand natural disasters, including: earthquakes, tsunamis, fires and other natural or man-made events.
NEI Backgrounders: Fact Sheets and Policy Briefs: This page includes fact sheets and policy briefs on environmental protection, safety and security, and nuclear waste and used nuclear fuel management
Published March 14, 2011: As the people of Japan work to recover from the devastating impact of Friday’s unprecedented natural disaster, GE offers its heartfelt condolences — and ongoing help. Japanese authorities are working around the clock to ensure the safety of the nuclear reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi Power Plant, which was damaged by a tsunami following the initial earthquake.
At a press conference yesterday in India, GE Chairman and CEO Jeff Immelt — there as part of a previously planned business visit — said, “Clearly we are offering any kind of technical assistance to our customer TEPCO and the government of Japan as they go through the recovery efforts with the nuclear power plants. Our first priority is to support the government and people of Japan.”
To that end, he announced that GE and the GE Foundation, the company’s philanthropic arm, will be committing $5 million in cash, equipment and services toward relief in the coming weeks and months. GE is currently working with disaster relief organizations, GE regional business leaders and the Japanese government to determine what specific additional GE support can be provided to best complement Japan’s response capacity.
Immelt, who also visited Japan’s embassy in New Delhi to personally express GE’s deepest sympathy to the government and people of Japan, explained to the press, “I think we just have to let the discovery take place…we are going to be supportive and transparent in that process.”