General Electric Knew Its Reactor Design Was Unsafe … So Why Isn’t GE Getting Any Heat for Fukushima?

GE Engineers and American Government Officials Warned of Dangerous Nuclear Design

5 of the 6 nuclear reactors at Fukushima are General Electric Mark 1 reactors.

GE knew decades ago that the design was faulty.

ABC News reported in 2011:

Thirty-five years ago, Dale G. Bridenbaugh and two of his colleagues at General Electric resigned from their jobs after becoming increasingly convinced that the nuclear reactor design they were reviewing — the Mark 1 — was so flawed it could lead to a devastating accident.

Questions persisted for decades about the ability of the Mark 1 to handle the immense pressures that would result if the reactor lost cooling power, and today that design is being put to the ultimate test in Japan. Five of the six reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi plant, which has been wracked since Friday’s earthquake with explosions and radiation leaks, are Mark 1s.

“The problems we identified in 1975 were that, in doing the design of the containment, they did not take into account the dynamic loads that could be experienced with a loss of coolant,” Bridenbaugh told ABC News in an interview. “The impact loads the containment would receive by this very rapid release of energy could tear the containment apart and create an uncontrolled release.”


Still, concerns about the Mark 1 design have resurfaced occasionally in the years since Bridenbaugh came forward. In 1986, for instance, Harold Denton, then the director of NRC’s Office of Nuclear Reactor Regulation, spoke critically about the design during an industry conference.

“I don’t have the same warm feeling about GE containment that I do about the larger dry containments,” he said, according to a report at the time that was referenced Tuesday in The Washington Post.

“There is a wide spectrum of ability to cope with severe accidents at GE plants,” Denton said. “And I urge you to think seriously about the ability to cope with such an event if it occurred at your plant.”


When asked if [the remedial measures performed on the Fukushima reactors by GE before 2011] was sufficient, he paused. “What I would say is, the Mark 1 is still a little more susceptible to an accident that would result in a loss of containment.”

The New York Times reported that other government officials warned about the dangers inherent in GE’s Mark 1 design:

In 1972, Stephen H. Hanauer, then a safety official with the Atomic Energy Commission, recommended that the Mark 1 system be discontinued because it presented unacceptable safety risks. Among the concerns cited was the smaller containment design, which was more susceptible to explosion and rupture from a buildup in hydrogen — a situation that may have unfolded at the Fukushima Daiichi plant. Later that same year, Joseph Hendrie, who would later become chairman of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, a successor agency to the atomic commission, said the idea of a ban on such systems was attractive. But the technology had been so widely accepted by the industry and regulatory officials, he said, that “reversal of this hallowed policy, particularly at this time, could well be the end of nuclear power.”

This faulty design has made the Fukushima disaster much worse.

Specifically, the several reactors explodedscattering clumps of radioactive fuel far and wide.

In addition, the Mark 1 included an absolutely insane design element: storing huge quantities of radioactive fuel rods 100 feet up in the air.

The Christian Science Monitor noted:

A particular feature of the 40-year old General Electric Mark 1 Boiling Water Reactor model – such as the six reactors at the Fukushima site – is that each reactor has a separate spent-fuel pool. These sit near the top of each reactor and adjacent to it ….

Indeed, the fuel pools have caught fires several times, and now constitute an enormous danger.

As we noted last year, the spent fuel pool at Fukushima reactor number 3 is in a heap of rubble (spent fuel pool designated as “SFP”  in the lower left):

Nuclear fuel rod expert Gundersen says the pool at unit 3 is in much worse shape than at 4:

Unit 3 is worse [than No. 4]. Mechanically its rubble, the pool is rubble. It’s got less fuel in it [than unit 4, but] structurally the pool has been dramatically weakened. And, god nobody has even gotten near it yet.

He’s right. It’s too radioactive for Tepco to even get a look at what’s going on in the reactor pools at units 1 through 3, and they have no idea how to do it. Indeed, the technology does not even exist to approach those reactors, as the high radiation levels quickly destroy even robots.

Heck of a job, GE …

Postscript:  Unfortunately, there are 23 virtually-identical GE Mark 1 reactors in the U.S.

This is not to say that Tepco and the Japanese government are not to blame also.  They are.

But GE and the American government are largely responsible as well.

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  • Tonto

    Why isn’t GE being held responsible? Why isn’t GE being prosecuted?

    This is one of the most important questions of our time. It may be the only question. This question involves answering the question about how everything works in our scientific culture. We exist is a barbaric age when the scientific shaman have an absolute immunity from prosecution. They have been granted amoral status, and absolution for the most heinous of heinous crimes.

    There is no equal application of our laws. Every state in the union has a cause of action against those who are responsible for systematically polluting every state in the union with radioactive poisons more than just Fukushima debris. Not one state has made the move to prosecute anyone. Everyone knows this, but few have pondered either the ethical source of this folly, or its effect upon how we view the truth of what it is we are doing on this planet, to ourselves and to the future of those who will come to live on this planet after we are all gone. They surely will wonder what we were all thinking in our haste and arrogance about what it is that is important to all of us.

    Clearly, this is a question of morality. The ethics of such a question are so transcendent when we are talking about the literal extinction of the human race, this can only be a question of categorical morality. We need justices and prosecutors who know how to categorically enforce the laws against GE and a great multitude of immoral polluters that are endangering everyone on the planet with their reckless conduct made in a negligent attempt to gain fame and fortune. But jurisprudence is somehow bought, and not up to the moral task regardless that laws are on the books that could be enforced to shut down these reactors and a great many other immoral scientific experiments that are taking place throughout the country and the world.

    Shame on the ignorant judges of this country. Shame on the ignorant prosecutors of this country. Shame on the ignorant lawyers in this country. Shame on every ignorant citizen in this superpower-nation too. What crude folks we are.

    But all the shame in the world heaped up in one place will make little difference soon enough, if the real evil in our society is not brought to heel before it is too late. And it may already be too late.

    The moral imperative of life is to live a life that detracts not at all from the lives of those who will follow us into this world. This moral statement is categorically true.

    The philosopher Immanuel Kant knew what it meant to find such a categorically true moral statement, could it be done. He dreamed of it. He obsessed over it. It is ever so unfortunate that hundreds of years later, we should only find the categorical imperative as we approach the very brink of the end of the world.

    Men are damned fools.

    • RJ O’Guillory

      ….I voted your comments up…as you are so very accurate….but I’d like to drop a an additional thought…that I never gave into them…though I worked for the US Gov. all over the world… as the strong-arms of corruption tried to crush me…I withstood that BS and took the moral, correct action…and refused to suck up to these fascist, crooked, corrupt bastards…for over twenty-four years I told them to kiss-my-ass….fascist pigs….traitorous fascist pigs…oh, and the label of “Federally protected Whistle-Blower” is a joke…


      RJ O’Guillory
      Webster Groves – The Life of an Insane Family

  • Douglas Hotchkiss

    maybe its because GE owns all the media for the most part , and they are the military industrial big shots.

  • gozounlimited

    The corporation is not a person…. persons living with the reality of their corrupt actions made on behalf of the corporation tend to continue to cause death and mayhem all around them….. Example: Pregnant Couple Killed in Alleged Suicide Attempt by Former G.E. Executive …..

  • apeman2502

    The Rockefeller/Bush as UN ambassador cabal sited, commissioned, license3d, inspected the Fukushima plant which GE designed, with the spent fuel pools on top of the reactors. This is even more stupid than storing filled gas cans over your propane stove. They did it anyway on the beach in the middle of a dangerously active tsunami zone. Any wonder why attention must be fixed on Japan? Steven Chu is over there extorting the Japanese. If the Japanese government refuses to accept ALL financial and legal responsibility, the U,S. will not send any help, and in fact will bar attempts.

  • rpm3145

    See the BBC documentary “A Is For Atom” by Adam Curtis. His work shows the nuclear industry knew back in the 1960s about the problems of large core nuclear reactors as being pushed by GE and Westinghouse yet the head of Atomic Energy Commission at that time, Glenn Seaborg, essentially withheld this information from public view.

    • Kirk McLoren

      military wanted U235/U238 fuel to produce the element with the weight of 239 – plutonium.
      Electricity for the folk meant Nagasaki bomb material.

  • George Henry

    Your posts read like a horror story that has become realized. Do we yet fathom the insanity of these designs or indeed of the idea of nuclear power in general? Do we realize that this one event, the Fukushima disaster, may well be the death knell of the Pacific Ocean and eventually life on this planet? We sit helpless in the face of this utter calamity, this crime against all humanity, and yet no one has been prosecuted or even questioned about the inherent risks and unsafe designs in these nuclear death traps. Why haven’t we had hearings on the safety of GE Mark I reactors in response to Fukushima? Why has the government turned off all radiological monitoring of the air, water, and food coming from Japan and Asia? What monsters are responsible for these decisions? I honestly feel like an alien race bent on our destruction has taken over our entire government. Not one person is stepping up to the plate to help protect us or prevent a future Fukushima here in America. This is astounding and sickening at the same time.

    • captain-of-the-caboose

      “We sit helpless in the face of this utter calamity…”; not so much ‘helpless’ as STUPID…and this “blog” is doing all it can to keep you that way!!! But then they work hand-in-hand with the “Railroad man”, ole grey locks himself, Jeffrey Rense!! Keep reading this blog and you’ll never get past the 4th grade…promise!!

      • igrandunifier

        u r here, n u think u r 5th grade?

    • AirForceMed

      Your doomsday Fukushima disaster is simply not true. The contaminated water is being captured and contained and filtered down to Controlled Pure Water (CPW) and handled as low level contamination. I’m sure those individuals who initially responded to the Fukushima disaster have or will die and there will be A SHORT TERM IMPACT to wildlife, fish species, and other environmental factions. All of which are and will be disastrous for the region in the short term, but it is not the doomsday event of which you describe. I have no quarrel with your analytical opinion and don’t want to insult you personally. You may be right, but from my experience and research, it doesn’t seem likely.

  • Patrick McGean

    Boycott anything from GE, not even a light bulb, and we will see how long GE lasts. In the mean time organic sulfur a crystal food can protect and repair the damage of radiation exposure, of which thanks to GE we are all being exposed.
    Got sulfur?

    • Kirk McLoren

      I have found no reference to any cure for ingested radioactive particles in the literature. I have found a doubling of tolerance with megadoses of free radical suppressors.

  • Leo

    This is classic human behavior. Textbook stupid caveman, no accountability psychopathy.

  • Doc Lem

    GE installing such a complex of fragile nuke power plants in a place that was known for huge earthguakes and tsunamis is beyond negligent. They may have just killed half the planet…

    • Kirk McLoren

      23 GE Mark ones in the USA. Failure of a diesel engine kills your fail safe. Who calls that engineering?

  • amerikagulag

    Still no mention of the possible stuxnet aspect of this whole thing. Stuxnet was found in the Fukushima computer systems in October prior to the quake. Many of the problems the plant encountered mirrored exactly what stuxnet is designed to cause. All nicely swept under the rug…..USIsrael waltz away to their next destructive venture.

    • Kirk McLoren

      The failsafe of a Mark 1 fails if no electricity is available. Stuxnet was written for a German controller for centrifuges. A seawall lower than the height of recorded waves flooded generators installed below the historical high water mark. Other than that Mrs Lincoln how was the play?

      • AirForceMed

        You are so intent on insulting people who are trying to have a civilized discussion. Nobody has a dog in this fight except you! Maybe you are the smartest person in room, but it doesn’t mean others are wrong. How about settle and allow for this organic discussion from other bright people to continue without constant jabs and one one-upmanship!

  • thetruthmaster1

    I Believe many of the Same GE Defective Type of Nuke Reactors are in operation right now here in the USA. Can someone please identify these reactors and please list where they are located. Go to this helpful Live Interactive web site MAP that updates every 5 minutes for all Radioactive Sites that identified the stregnth of emitting radiation, here in the USA and also in Japan.. { RadiationNetWork dot Com } Put this Web Site on your Mobile Phone when you are on the move and mobile so you know where Not to go.during an incident or evacuation.

  • Mike Lashewitz

    Yes they knew, but will they be held responsible? Like BP? Yeah Sure!
    Not like it is important that an ENTIRE RACE of PEOPLE are dying. That was part of the AGENDA wasn’t it?