No to Nuclear Power! Yes to Solar, Wind, and Tides!

Can Existing Southeastern U.S. Nuclear Power Companies Convert to Solar, Wind and Tides?

 

Hand crafted map of U.S. nuclear reactors used at the NGO summit on nuclear power in Charlotte, NC

In late June, representatives from dozens of Southeastern U.S. environmental groups gathered at the University of Tennessee in Chattanooga to learn and teach and strategize about nuclear power and weapons facilities in the southeastern United States. Ellen Thomas of Disarm!/End Wars Committee represented WILPF. Since 2009, Ellen has lived in the mountains of western North Carolina, and has learned that the southeast is ground zero for the attempted nuclear power revival, and is becoming a nuclear waste dump for the world. She has also learned that earthquakes are common in South Carolina, that in 2011 a huge earthquake shut down the North Anna plant in Virginia, that tornadoes have barely missed power plants in Tennessee and Alabama, and that in 1989 Hurricane Hugo flooded the Brunswick plant in eastern North Carolina, which dumped radioactive water onto pig and other farms. (See footnotes.)

At the summit, it was agreed that a coordinated campaign to stop the two new reactors at Vogtle (Georgia) might, if successful, also stop or at least slow down progress at two sites in South Carolina. These are VC Summer (with one existing reactor, two new proposed) in Jenkinsville, SC, and the new Lee plant in Gaffney, SC, just over the border from North Carolina. Gaffney is where, in the 1970s. the planned Cherokee nuclear plant was halted because neither Wall Street nor the nuclear industrialists were willing to finance its completion. The shell that had been built was used in the movie "The Abyss." Wall Street and the industrialists are still unwilling to invest their own money in nuclear energy, but that hasn't stopped the energy companies.

They continue to seek loan guarantees from the federal government (our tax dollars). They continue to scheme to charge their customers in advance for building these new power plants, and also for funding  a double-digit profit for their shareholders before the plants are ever completed. Duke Power and other energy companies have recently sought funding for new nuclear reactors by ratepayers through sneaky means. In South Carolina, laws have been passed which allow utilities to charge their customers up front for the costs of building these new nuclear reactors. North Carolina is still debating the issue. The proposed new Lee plant in Gaffney, which is owned by Duke Energy and which would serve more ratepayers in North Carolina than in South Carolina, is currently projected to cost $12 billion. The Chamber of Commerce and Mayor in Gaffney are gung-ho for the new reactors, on their very un-broad and shallow "Broad" River which is already polluted upstream by the Cliffside coal plant, and downriver by the VC Summer nuclear reactor. After all, they've been promised jobs, schools, hospitals, recreation facilities, and perhaps even political donations (though can't be sure about that).

Imagine what could be done with $12 billion of Duke Energy customers' money if they had a voice in how it was spent. How much would it cost to build three factories which produced solar, wind, and tide energy systems? How much would be left over to invest in upgrading home and business efficiency, and to create a smart grid in which customers could feed power out to the grid when sun and wind and tides were cooperating, and customers could be paid for their contribution??? There are some smart people who believe the smart grid shouldn't be controlled by existing power companies, that an alternative system should be developed.  

But the fact is, these large power companies like Southern Company, Duke, and Entergy HAVE created an infrastructure that COULD accommodate a renewable energy system, if the mind-set were there. Nuclear power has got to go, but we'll probably be a lot more successful if we woo these behemoths with promises of profits, rather than competition, confrontation and name-calling. What we need is a win-win scenario. It's the art of peace. Let's walk softly, and carry a great idea. (See footnotes.)


Footnotes

Check a map of U.S. nuclear power facilities and locate closed, functioning, expanding, and planned new nuclear power plants. Major South East companies are Southern Company, Duke Energy and Entergy (which also operates Vermont Yankee!)

  • Alabama (2): Browns Ferry and Joseph M. Farley
  • Florida (3+): Crystal River, St. Lucie, Turkey Point, and proposed Levy (which would wipe out pristine wetlands)
  • Georgia (2): Edwin I. Hatch, Vogtle (the first plant semi-authorized by the NRC to build new reactors in 30 years, and the focus of a grassroots campaign to "Stop Vogtle! Stop all new nuclear reactors!")
  • Louisiana (2): River Bend , Waterford
  • Mississippi (1): Grand Gulf
  • North Carolina (3): Brunswick, McGuire, Shearon Harris
  • South Carolina (6): Catawba, Oconee, H.B. Robinson, Summer (nearing NRC approval for two new reactors in addition to the one existing reactor), and Lee (which would be the first newly-irradiated site if the two proposed reactors are approved, a process further along than Levy in Florida)?And don't forget Savannah River, SC (across the river from Vogtle in Georgia), a nuclear bomb plant which is now proposed for "MOX" fuel reprocessing and interim storage of high-level nuclear waste from around the world.
  • Tennessee (2): Sequoyah, Watts Bar, needing decommissioning, but might be extended another 30 years. And don't forget Oak Ridge, with proposals as ghastly as those for Savannah River.
  • Virginia (2): North Anna, Surrey. Be sure to remember the recent earthquake that shook the southeast from DC's Washington Monument to North Anna and points south.

This list does not include research reactors at universities in Florida, North Carolina, and Virginia, and several other sites undergoing decommissioning. Check out Wikipedia for more details.

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