General Electric, which manufactured the nuclear reactors at Japan’s devastated Fukushima nuclear power plant is monitoring events at the plant with its Japanese-based partner, Hitachi-GE Nuclear Energy.

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, according to GE’s web site. The company stated: “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, the GE and Hitachi alliance contacted the Japanese government and Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO), the plant operator, offering assistance. Incident response and engineering teams were assembled in Tokyo and Wilmington, NC to provide 24/7 support.

GE says its actions have included:
  • Providing technical assistance to TEPCO through GE’s 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
  • Responding to a request from TEPCO to deliver 10 GE truck-mounted gas turbines which can provide temporary power. Three of those 10 are ready in Florida and are awaiting air transport. GE Energy, along with its Aeroderivative Gas Turbines business, has also been in contact with IHI, in addition to other companies in the region, to support equipment delivery in Japan. GE’s cross-functional business teams are coordinating engineering and project resources as well as equipment availabilities.
  • Engaging GE’s 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.

Fukushima reactor same model as those at some U.S. nuclear plants

According to a statement on GE’s web site, 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.”