Have you ever wished you had an expert (in this case, a nuclear engineer) in the family to help explain Japan’s Fukushima nuclear accidents?
In the last few days, on top of reading/watching the regular media reports, I felt like I had a closed relative/trusted friend explaining the nuclear accidents at the Fukushima I and Fukushima II nuclear power plants to me. I really appreciate Mark Mervine, a nuclear engineer/expert with extensive real world nuclear power plant experiences (see below for his background), taking time to chat with his daughter Evelyn Mervine (currently a 5th-year PhD student in the MIT/Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution Joint Program) to shine light on the Fukushima nuclear accidents.
The following is a list of links to the interviews. (9:52am MST Update: The Tuesday March 15th interview has now been posted.)
March 12, 2011: “A Conversation with My Dad, a Nuclear Engineer, about the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant Disaster in Japan” – (part 1)
March 13: “Follow-Up Interview with my Dad, a Nuclear Engineer, about the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant Disaster in Japan” – (part 2)
March 14: “Second Follow-Up Interview with my Dad, a Nuclear Engineer, about the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant Disaster in Japan” – (part 3)
March 15: “Third Follow-Up Interview with my Dad, a Nuclear Engineer, about the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant Disaster in Japan” – (Part 4)
P.S. On a personal note, I want to say I love what Evelyn and Mark have done here. Evelyn knows her dad is an nuclear expert, and Mark, as an expert, is willing to share his insight and time. As a result, I think we are all better off being more informed.
Here is Mark’s background as discussed in the first Conversation.
“Q: Alright. I was hoping that we could start out, I know who you are, since you’re my dad, but if you could just introduce yourself quickly and describe some of your background in nuclear power.
A: Sure, my name is Mark Mervine. I graduated from the US Naval Academy in 1981, and went into the Navy nuclear power program. I was in submarines, and while I was in the Navy I qualified on two different types of Navy nuclear power plants and served as an instructor in the Navy nuclear power program.
Q: OK, and then after you got out of the Navy?
A: After seven years of active duty, I went into the Reserves, and I stayed in the Reserves and I retired as a commander in the Navy Reserves. I went to work, initially, for Wisconsin Electric, which at that time had a 2-unit Westinghouse pressurized-water reactor in Turbridge, Wisconsin. While I was there, I completed my SRO certification, which allowed me to do senior review and oversight, as a member of the plant management staff. And I also qualified and served as a shift technical advisor, which is a position that was added in the nuclear power industry, after Three Mile Island, that is a degreed engineer position, that’s available to the on-shift crew on a 24-hour basis. Some plants do it on an 8 hour watch, at that time, Wisconsin Electric did it on a 24 hour watch, so I would actually stay at the plant for 24 hours; we had a place where we could sleep, and my job was to advise the crew whenever they needed advice on what was happening with the plant.
After a few years at Wisconsin Electric, I went to work for Vermont Yankee, where I also completed the SRO certification, Senior Reactor Certification, which allowed me to do senior level reviews as a member of the plant management staff, and I also served on the Outside Review Committee, which is a very high-level committee for the main Yankee nuclear plant, until it closed, and also Vermont Yankee.
Q: Excellent. So, you’re qualified to talk a little bit about nuclear power, it sounds like.
A: I can talk a little about nuclear power, yes.“
I have a question and a suggestion for a nuclear engineer about a way to improve future nuclear power plant design. Based on news reports, it appears that herd to resolve problems at Fukushima Daichi started with steam generated by heat as the cores slowly cooled after shutdown. The necessity to vent this steam in the absence of a back-up power source to pump cooling water apparently led to hydrogen explosions that seriously damaged the plants.
My questions and suggestion is to ask if in the future, nuclear power plants could be designed or retrofitted so that post-shutdown steam can be put to work instead of being dangerously vented? Could post-shutdown steam turn a smaller auxiliary turbine which is not connected to the grid and is used only to generate emergency backup power for pumps? It should create a beneficial feedback loop wherein the hotter the core, the more electricity could be generated to pump cooling water.
Well John, I think Mark (the nuclear engineer) actually adress the question of using “post-shutdown steam” to get some power. You can listen to Mark’s interview for what he has to say.