Perth company’s water cannon cools nuke crisis

Posted: June 17, 2011 in Industrial

REL water cannon along with Cummins genset and Cummins Custom Pak being loaded on to a US Air Force C-17 Globemaster for transport to Japan.

Perth company Resource Equipment Ltd hit the world news in March after the tsunami slammed into the Fukushima nuclear power station in Japan.

As frantic efforts were being made to prevent a meltdown at Japan’s Fukushima nuclear plant following the 9.0-magnitude earthquake and subsequent tsunami on March 11, workers at Resource Equipment Ltd in Perth were also racing against time.

The reason became clear when television news was dominated by the headline: GIANT WATER CANNON ARRIVES TO HELP BATTLE JAPAN NUKE CRISIS.

Resource Equipment’s brand ‘REL’ was prominent on the cannon and associated equipment, including a Cummins generator set and Cummins Custom Pak, as the gear was offloaded at an air base in Japan and readied for deployment at the nuclear plant.

“We were contacted by foreign government representatives asking if we could urgently help with the emergency relief effort in Japan,” recounts REL executive Michael Callisto.

“We were told there was an overheating problem with the nuclear reactors at Fukushima, and the plan was to pump seawater into the plant to cool the reactor cores.

“Our solution was to use a remote-controlled hydromining cannon which could pump seawater at the rate of 200 litres a second at extremely high pressure.

“We were basically given 24 hours to assemble all the equipment and transport it to the Pearce air force base north of Perth. This was during the weekend …a massive feat by our people,” says Michael Callisto.

Two US Air Force C-17 Globemasters transported the equipment to Japan while three REL employees also flew over to assist with the successful deployment of the cannon.

Three submersible electric pumps – powered by a 550 kVA Cummins genset – started the seawater on its journey through 1.0 km of pipeline to the remote controlled cannon, stationed  about 100 metres from the nuclear plant.

Along the way, a Cummins QSM11 Custom Pak and a 28-litre, V12 Cummins engine assisted with the high-pressure pumping as frantic efforts were made to contain the world’s worst nuclear accident since Chernobyl.

Today, as Japan rebuilds after the devastation created by the biggest earthquake in its history, REL’s water cannon will be counted as one of the critical factors in the emergency effort to help stem radiation bleeding into the environment.

Mark Lagemann, REL national operations manager, briefs members of Japanese government agencies on the operation of the water cannon --- Photo courtesy of US Air Force.

 Resource Equipment had its beginnings in 2003 when Tony Ryder walked away from a senior management position at Coates Hire to start the rental company with business partner Keith Lucas from Search Equipment.

Originally known as Resource Equipment Rentals, the now listed company’s inventory includes over 400 Cummins engines, Cummins Custom Paks (self-contained power packs) and Cummins gensets.

REL’s core business is mine dewatering and its customers include many of the big miners, including BHP Billiton, Rio Tinto, Alcoa, Newmont, BMA, Anglo American, Xstrata and Consolidated Minerals.

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