Nuclear Safety:

Comparison of DOE's Hanford N-Reactor With the Chernobyl Reactor

RCED-86-213BR: Published: Aug 5, 1986. Publicly Released: Aug 5, 1986.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO provided information on: (1) the similarities and differences in design and safety features of the Department of Energy's (DOE) N-Reactor and the Soviet Union's Chernobyl nuclear reactor; (2) the DOE program to extend the life of N-Reactor; and (3) emergency preparedness plans for N-Reactor.

GAO found that differences between N-Reactor and the Chernobyl reactor included: (1) different inherent physical responses to increases in coolant temperature; (2) N-Reactor safety systems that the Chernobyl reactor did not have; (3) N-Reactor use of a metal form of uranium fuel rather than an oxide form of uranium fuel; (4) N-Reactor using once-through emergency cooling and the Chernobyl reactor using a recirculating emergency cooling system; and (5) N-Reactor using a reactor confinement system to control steam pressures and the release of radioactive materials during an accident, while the Chernobyl reactor used a containment system. GAO also found that: (1) it would cost approximately $1.2 billion to upgrade N-Reactor for safe operation; (2) DOE has complied with 7 of 10 GAO emergency preparedness recommendations; and (3) DOE and state and local officials must jointly participate in N-Reactor site-wide emergency drills.

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