NCNUKE has received an update from GE Hitachi headquarters in Wilmington NC.  It contains very insightful information.  Read their press release and NCNUKE’s take on it below.

Updated 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
  • Responding to a request today from TEPCO to deliver 10 GE truck-mounted gas turbineswhich can provide temporary power (Click here for a photo). 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 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.

Reactor Safety:

  • 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


GE has always been considered one of the best managed companies on the planet.  NCNUKE readers can see that they are very careful in the wording of their releases, but some of the details are being fleshed out.  Their experience and broad scope in the power generation field will be an invaluable resource in getting emergency power restored at the Fukushima nuclear site.  These truck mounted turbines are always in a limited supply.  Here is why;  in our ncnuke breakdown.  Think of a hospital or school or really any building with an emergency power supply generator.  The unit will be tested on a regular interval, but its actual use in an emergency will be very sparing.  It will also be housed in a permanent structure meant to withstand whatever created the emergency.  Under any normal circumstances diesel generators are perfectly capable and the most cost efficient.  This leaves a very low inventory of these highly expensive specialty mobile gas turbines.  Even this limited supply of mobile gas turbines is seldom in use.  GE Hitachi appears to be willing to move mountains to get this vital technology to the disaster sight.   They seem fully committed to the rescue effort.