Preventing Hydrogen Explosions In Severe Nuclear Accidents
Unresolved safety issues involving hydrogen generation and mitigation
As demonstrated during the March 2011 severe nuclear accident in Fukushima, Japan, accumulation and subsequent detonation of hydrogen gas produced by an overheated nuclear core reacting with steam can breach a reactor's containment structures and result in widespread radioactive contamination. The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has a checkered history when it comes to requiring measures that would effectively reduce the risk of hydrogen explosions in the event of a severe accident at a U.S. nuclear power plant. This regulatory lapse is rooted in the history of the development of commercial nuclear power in the United States, when the NRC's predecessor agency, the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC), had a dual mandate: both to promote and to regulate commercial nuclear power.