Safety Batteries: Nuclear Power Station’s Last Resort

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Nuclear power continues to be controversial. It is a persuasive solution for going green, and the industry has put numerous safety systems in place. In fact, they argue a nuclear power station is one of the safest places to be on the planet. This would be statistically true were it not for Chernobyl and Fukushima. Today, we discuss the role of safety batteries. These are a nuclear power station’s last resort in a crisis.

How Nuclear Power Stations Boil Water

safety batteries

Nuclear Fuel Pellets: NRC: Public Domain

Nuclear fuel is uranium pellets stored in long tubes vertically inserted into the water that they boil. Power station operators raise or lower them depending on the extent of the reaction they wish to cause.

They fully immerse them in an emergency, rendering them temporarily inoperable. To do so, they rely on electric motors, relays, and switches. They have to have electricity for this to work.

The Conditions Under Which Safety Batteries Engage

Under normal conditions, a nuclear power plant draws its operating electricity from a utility grid to start up. Then it sends the electricity it generates to the national grid. Some of this, it steps down for own use.

In the event this supply fails, the power plant has gas or diesel generators to keep it going. This allows its operators time to withdraw its fuel rods, and keep circulating coolant as they shut down its systems. If these too fail to perform, safety batteries are their last resort. Beyond that, a meltdown is almost inevitable.

What Went Wrong at Fukushima Power Station

safety batteries

Fukushima Melt Down: Digital Globe: CC 3.0

On March 11, 2011 a 40-foot high tsunami struck the power station and destroyed its connection to the national grid. This triggered the automatic shutdown of the units, and with this, its own self-sustaining power.

Then the water flooded the standby generator room. All that Fukushima had left was its last resort, its safety batteries.

However, the safety batteries only had power for eight hours. Despite valiant efforts, technicians were unable to connect portable generators under the flooded conditions. When the safety batteries ran out, the units melted down and exploded. There was nothing more anybody could do.


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Preview Image: Post Melt Down Inspection


About Author


I tripped over a shrinking bank balance and fell into the writing gig unintentionally. This was after I escaped the corporate world and searched in vain for ways to become rich on the internet by doing nothing. Despite the fact that writing is no recipe for wealth, I rather enjoy it. I will not deny I am obsessed with it when I have the time. My base is Umtentweni in South Africa on the Kwazulu-Natal South Coast (30.7167° S, 30.4667° E). I work from home where I ponder on the future of the planet, and what lies beyond in the great hereafter. Sometimes I step out of my computer into the silent riverine forests, and empty golden beaches for which the area is renowned.

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