Posted by: Green Knight | April 28, 2011

Brown Trousers at Browns Ferry?

Interestingly rosy picture painted by CBS about the effect of last night’s tornadoes on TVA’s Browns Ferry nuclear plant near Huntsville, AL, of the same basic design as Fukushima Daiichi.  People I know down south haven’t traditionally had much more respect for TVA than we here in St. Louis do for the Corps of Engineers after the flood of 1993.  If the plant had suffered a direct hit, they’d no doubt be singing a different tune.  See for their spin on it; they act as though since it didn’t happen, it can’t happen.

Here’s something I just got this morning from Greenpeace, about relicensing old nuke plants to keep running past their design capacity:

Currently, the NRC is deciding the fate of over a dozen aging nuclear reactors in this country. Some of them are of the very same design and vintage as those that exploded and melted down in Japan. But the bureaucrats at NRC have NEVER denied a nuclear industry application for renewal. That’s not a legitimate licensing process; that’s a radioactive rubber stamp!

Right now there is more public awareness of the dangers of nuclear power than there has been since Chernobyl. The NRC knows that people are paying attention and that it is supposed to regulate reactors and their deadly wastes. That’s why we’re asking the Chairman of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Gregory B. Jaczko, to put away the rubber stamp and halt the re-licensing of dangerous old nuclear reactors.

The NRC did not even pause to learn the lessons of the Fukushima disaster. Within days of the disaster in Japan, the NRC rubber stamped the re-licensing of Vermont Yankee for ANOTHER 20 years.

It should not take a Chernobyl or a Fukushima on U.S. soil for government bureaucrats to regulate this dangerous technology. The NRC is supposed to protect the public health and safety. Rubber stamping nuclear reactors to run 20 years beyond their licensed life only serves to bolster the corporate bottom line.”

My favorite alt-country singer and mystery writer Kinky Friedman said, while running for governor of Texas, “I’m not against the death penalty, I’m against the wrong guy getting executed.”  (I tuned his guitar for him at a book-signing event back in ’96!)  Similarly, I’m not against nuclear power as an energy source, I’m against unsafe use of it.  After all, it’s a natural phenomenon; bacteria concentrated uranium to critical mass and used the fission for energy in the Oklo biological reactor in Gabon, west Africa, starting about 1.8 billion years ago and running for millions of years (of course, there was barely any oxygen in the atmosphere then, or there would’ve been some pyrotechnics.)  See for some fascinating info.

The sun is a giant nuke, but at a safe distance.  At the other end of the size scale, there’s some promising talk of “micro-nukes,” which could power cities and be the size of a suitcase, buried and encased for safety.  See for an interesting read.

The point is that the industry in the US is turning a blind eye to Sendai and foaming at the mouth to build new plants and relicense aging ones that should be sent to the knacker’s yard.  Even new ones can have problems: when the Diablo Canyon plant in California was built, they only discovered an “inactive” fault line right under it after the fact, and there’s really no such thing as an inactive fault in my original home state.  Also, during construction, it was discovered that the blueprints for the plethora of piping systems had been drawn upside-down and backwards; Bechtel had to be called in to fix that mess.  And guess whose utility bills were paying for all of that, and will be everywhere else for construction if new plants are approved, before they produce a single kilowatt of juice?  Right, you guessed it, you and me.  Does that sound fair?

I’d be interested in reader feedback on this; I get a lot of hits but almost no comments.  Have a nice day.



  1. I am not so opposed to nuclear power either because it creates so much power with such a little piece. However, I am opposed to the nuclear waste and am not going to be as readily okay with nuclear plants until there is a better disposal method. Also…the plants cost so much to build and then to maintain after they are built. Basically I am saying that I am open to the idea of alternatives to coal (gross!). I always think of the Simpsons when nuclear anything comes up and Homer working in the power plant just as a side-note.

  2. Yeah, Homer’s always good for a laugh! What we NEED to do is build a space elevator or three, get some solar-collector satellites up there, and beam power down to receivers with microwaves (keeping planes out of the way). You’d be far less likely to fry as many birds as get chopped up in wind-farm propellers. I first read about that idea in the late ’70s. But first we need to figure out ways to reduce demand. The best place for nuclear waste is the sun. We could raise it up to the top of the space elevators (cutting down the risk of shuttle-type crashes) and give it a gentle push towards Sol. Gravity would do the rest. You could drop 100 Earths into the sun without causing a respectable solar flare.

  3. haha a space elevator sounds like the perfect solution to me as long as there is money at hand…of course they find money to build the plants so I’m sure they could find a few more bucks to build a nice space elevator.

    • Arthur C. Clarke and Larry Niven have both written some pretty good hard science fiction novels incorporating the idea. Clarke placed his where he lived in Sri Lanka (gotta be on the equator for stability); I forget where Larry put his. I should ask my cousin in Ecuador (means “equator” en Español) to lobby the government to put one there too. Kim Stanley Robinson’s excellent Mars novels made use of them as well; his were made of carbon nanotubes and diamond, for tensile strength and flexibility.

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