When the Fukushima incident was happening, one of the stories we were told was that the venting systems in US boiling water reactors are better. Not so:
American officials had said early on that reactors in the United States would be safe from such disasters because they were equipped with new, stronger venting systems. But Tokyo Electric Power Company, which runs the plant, now says that Fukushima Daiichi had installed the same vents years ago.
That whole article is worth reading because it also shows that TEPCO was in a state of utter disarray after the quake and tsunami.
Another story that was told is that the plants’ cooling systems survived the earthquake and were operating until loss of power and depletion of batteries caused them to fail. Also not true at Unit 1:
The emergency cooling system was automatically activated but stopped about 10 minutes later and remained off for about 3 hours until after the tsunami arrived.
TEPCO says plant workers may have manually shut down the cooling system because pressure inside the reactor had dropped sharply from 70 to 45 atmospheres.
I’m no nuclear engineer, but if an earthquake happens and a pressure vessel can’t hold pressure, I have to assume it was damaged. Not that it really matters, because the antiquated cooling system in Unit 1, which was of an older design than the other units, would have failed anyway.
But, kids, don’t worry — the NRC just decreed that US plants are all safe, and there’s just no way that they can suffer the same fate as those sloppy, careless Japanese.