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[cdn-nucl-l] CLEAN POWER: TVA should choose nuclear option
Posted in the Paducah Sun (Kentucky) on July 23, 2003 and at:
TVA should choose nuclear option
During a meeting held two years ago to discuss possible solutions to the
Great California Power Crisis, the CEO of Intel Corp. remarked, "Nuclear
power is the answer, but it's not politically correct."
The same politically incorrect answer applies to the question of how the
Tennessee Valley Authority can meet the needs of its power customers without
producing smog and other forms of pollution.
Unlike aging coal-fired power plants, which generate about two-thirds of
TVA's power, nuclear power plants emit no greenhouse gases. Nuclear power
plants are clean and they generate lots of electricity: consider that one
reactor at TVA's Browns Ferry facility can produce enough power to light
Marvin Runyon, a former chairman of TVA, recently told members of the TVA
congressional caucus that the agency should convert to nuclear power to
eliminate air pollution.
That answer still is not politically correct - U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander of
Tennessee responded by saying TVA shouldn't opt for a "single solution" -
but growing concern about pollution-belching coal-fired plants may spark a
rethinking of the benefits and risks of nuclear power.
The risks of continuing to operate 50-year-old coal plants are clear.
By some estimates, coal-fired power plants produce one-third of all U.S.
emissions of nitrogen oxide, the key ingredient of smog. Coal-fired plants
also emit sulfur dioxide, which contributes to acid rain.
People with respiratory diseases suffer from exposure to smog. And coal
miners face serious safety threats on a regular basis while supplying the
fuel to keep the old power plants operating.
Against that, nuclear power is a relatively safe and clean power source.
Keep in mind that no one was killed in the nuclear power industry's worst
accident in the United States, the 1979 incident at Three Mile Island.
Nonetheless, a wave of anti-nuclear hysteria followed the accident at Three
Mile Island. The hysteria and the political reaction to it hit TVA hard,
forcing the agency to abandon its nuclear program and eat the debt
accumulated during construction of the unfinished facilities.
But recent changes in public attitudes and the political environment are
giving TVA an opportunity to revive its nuclear power program.
Polls show a growing number of Americans sees nuclear power as a viable
alternative to high-cost electricity generated by gas-fired plants and
"dirty" power produced by coal plants. President George W. Bush's energy
plan gives nuclear plants a larger role in meeting the nation's future power
A key concern about nuclear power - that there's no safe place to store
reactor waste - should be resolved when the Yucca Mountain disposal facility
in Nevada is completed.
TVA officials are in the process of refurbishing the Unit 1 reactor at
Browns Ferry. If the agency decides to finish construction on the
Bellefonte, Ala., plant, which is 70 percent complete, that facility would
produce 2,400 megawatts of electricity - enough to power more than 1.1
All of that power can be generated without threatening air quality in the
Tennessee Valley and the Great Smoky Mountains. But no matter how much
pollution control equipment TVA installs on the aging coal-fired plants -
the agency is planning to invest $2.6 billion in pollution controls - those
plants will continue to contribute to the smog problem in the Smokies.
Nuclear power may not be the only solution to TVA's pollution problems, but
it definitely should be one of the solutions.