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The mechanical phenomenon of vibration assumed intriguing significance to me during my young adulthood when I discovered there were companies devoted to studying and resolving such oscillations negative effects. I hadn’t given much thought to this subject until I was exploring some employment opportunities and ultimately was offered a position at such a company, though I didn’t accept their offer.
Vibration has “desired” or “undesired effects” as Wikipedia describes. Tuning fork vibrations, mobile phones, and a reed in a woodwind instrument, like a clarinet, are a few desirable examples. Undesirable vibrations “...waste energy, create unwanted sound...” and sometimes friction in mechanical devices.
Years ago our household experienced quite annoying noise every time our refrigerator’s motor came on. Ultimately we learned vibration was the cause as a consequence of the appliance’s wall contact inside the built-in cabinet. Vibration effects have been a matter of concern in experimental aircraft test flights, for space flight shuttles, even our automobiles – so many other items, including those we encounter daily.
We’re learning here in So Cal (Southern California, U.S.A.) that tube vibrations inside the coastal San Onofre Nuclear Generating Plant have created a serious problem. Tubal radioactive steam leakage was discovered January 31, 2012 ultimately necessitating the plant’s shut down. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s analytic report was released March 8, 2013 stating in the Executive Summary on page 6 "...wear was determined to have been caused by random vibration...” in this Los Angeles Times link.
These tubes had been operating only 11 months, a considerable shorter duration than the years expected. The newspaper notes the report “...provides the most detailed picture to date of how the flawed system at San Onofre was designed. It was written by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, which built the generators.”
So Cal residents such as myself and friends living 50 miles or less from San Onofre are genuinely concerned about our power company’s efforts to have the plant resume operation. Some of us tend to be a bit questioning about the safety and advisability of doing so given revelations about officials past decision-making priorities.
Abby Sewell’s L .A. Times article providing the NRC report link mentioned above has written informatively about the issues including wrangling between Mitsubishi and So Cal Edison, our utility company over $$$ which is only part of the problem. The possible avoidance of correcting known problems because doing so might require seeking additional regulatory approval does little to generate trust in the safety of such nuclear energy plants, certainly San Onofre.
Resumption of nuclear energy generation by activating even two of the other reactors at San Onofre on the Pacific Coast between Los Angeles and San Diego is yet to be resolved.