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Investigate the root causes of major Engineering disasters that have occurred since 1800 - Essay Example

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Investigate the root causes of major Engineering disasters that have occurred since 1800

In engineering, most disasters that have occurred portray a possibility of overlooking one or more provisions of safety with some being caused by poor decision-making and ignorance. The Chernobyl Power plant disaster The Chernobyl Nuclear power plant disaster of April 26, 1986 although blamed on negligence on the part of operators had some engineering aspects that could have contributed in the disaster, in addition to the operation negligence. The Chernobyl plant used RBMK reactors that have been blamed for a number of negative features that may compromise the safety of the reactors and their operations. The RBMK reactors have neutron fields with high sensitivity levels towards movement of control rods, which results from having a high number of absorbers in the reactor core aimed at compensating for any extra reactivity (Malko, 1991). When some absorbers are withdrawn, especially affecting most of the absorbers in the peripheral zones, there results a local criticality. Moreover, RBMK reactors involve occurrence of huge positive reactivity that leads to a reduction of the period required to achieve stabilization of the power produced at the core to about 3 minutes (Medvedev, 1990). These factors make operations of a RBMK reactor problematic and uncertain in maintaining the safety of the reactor. Frankel (2010) observed that the Chernobyl reactor was designed to use graphite moderators that were typically unsafe, in addition to use of graphite rods. As a result, any possible loss of water in such a RBMK reactor posed great danger. Contrary to the operations of Pressurized Water Reactors (PWR), any water that circulates in the pipe network is only required to serve the purpose of cooling the reactor core only and not to moderate the core and cool it (Frankel, 2010). In PWR reactor cores, removal of the core cooling water would cause the entire chain reaction to abort. However in an RBMK-0100 reactor such as the one used in Chernobyl, in case water is lost due to closure of the supplying pumps as was the case, the graphite moderating rods continue to propagate and facilitate nuclear chain reactions (Frankel, 2010). Such mechanism, when considered alongside the loss of cooling water in the nuclear reactor core, would lead to overheating of the core in the shortest time possible. In such a case, the event of a core meltdown becomes the only possible event. In addition, in the Chernobyl RBMK reactors, the control rods were not designed as drastic safety features. Control rods are necessary for absorbing neutrons towards reducing or stopping chain reactions from taking place. However, in the Chernobyl RBMK reactors, control rods required about 20 seconds to reach the bottom of the core from their highest position (Medvedev, 1991). This was contrary to modern reactors that have well designed control rods, which require one second or less, to reach the core of a nuclear reactor stopping any chain reaction. Therefore, in Chernobyl nuclear reactor, the design and engineering of the entire core overlooked key safety mechanisms that could have prevented possible meltdown. The result of overlooking these safety considerations was the 1986 disaster. This was ...Show more


Engineering Disasters College: Engineering Disasters Since 1980, numerous engineering disasters have occurred causing serious losses and fatalities, with some disasters having their effects still experienced today. Though engineering has been attributed to the rapid development in industrial innovations and provision of better ways to solve problems in the society, engineering has its fair share of accidents that have resulted in fatalities, and some of which are recorded as the worst disasters in history…
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Investigate the root causes of major Engineering disasters that have occurred since 1800
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