AP photo by Gerald Herbert|
President Bush checks out the control room at the Browns Ferry Nuclear Plant on Thursday during a quick tour of the facility. The president lauded the restart last month of the plant’s Unit 1 reactor and said that new reactors should be constructed elsewhere in the United States.
Power intersects at nuclear plant here
By Eric Fleischauer
The power was palpable at Browns Ferry Nuclear Plant on Thursday.
Not only were three nuclear reactors humming along at 100-percent power, the most powerful man in the nation was speaking on the importance of nuclear energy.
Among the 250 crowded into a hot employee gymnasium to hear President Bush speak were 150 Tennessee Valley Authority employees, 100 of them chosen by lottery from Browns Ferry rank and file.
“Thanks for what you’re doing,” Bush said, to the employees. “Thanks for being skillful. Thanks for working hard. Thanks for helping the country.”
Jeffrey Kirsch, a fire protection system engineer at Browns Ferry since 1985, said the president’s visit was an important morale booster for employees.
“I think it was a shot in the arm for all of us,” Kirsch said. “People get tired after all that work (for the Unit 1 restart). It was a big plus for the employees.”
Bush emphasized the importance of last month’s Browns Ferry Unit 1 restart and said new nuclear plants need to be built.
“It’s one thing to restart one, and I congratulate you,” Bush said. “It’s another thing to build the new ones. And that’s what we ought to have happen if we’re interested in a comprehensive, sound, wise energy policy that is environmentally friendly.”
Daily photo by Gary Cosby Jr.|
President Bush addresses the crowd at the Browns Ferry Nuclear Power Plant on Thursday. “This is a safe plant, and the people in the United States must understand that,” he said.
Unit 1 has had a troubled history, most dramatically when a worker using a candle to check ventilation in 1975 started a fire that closed it for a year and panicked a nation. The plant closed again in 1985 for safety reasons. Plans for the $1.8 billion restart began in 2002.
‘This is a safe plant’
“This is a safe plant,” Bush said after a quick tour, “and the people in the United States must understand that.”
A major reason for Bush’s visit was to push Congress to pass energy legislation that would expedite the construction of new plants.
“We want to start building plants, and we recognize that there have been some regulatory burdens that ... discourage the construction of new plants,” Bush said.
He said expediting the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s inspection process is a necessary step in adding new plants.
“So, I’ve got the chairman of the NRC here,” Bush said to laughter. “I want him to hear what I just said.”
Bush said the fact that the NRC has 20 applications pending for up to 30 new reactors — largely as a result of incentives included in 2005 energy legislation — is a sign that “attitudes are changing.”
He proposed a partnership between government and industry to expedite construction.
Bush advocated the reprocessing of spent fuel as a method of alleviating the ongoing dilemma over what to do with nuclear waste.
U.S. nuclear plants are storing most spent fuel in on-site cooling pools, which many scientists see as vulnerable to terrorist attack.
Plants are storing spent fuel that won’t fit into the cooling pools in massive dry casks, stored on site at Browns Ferry and other plants, which most scientists believe present a lesser risk.
“Reprocessing spent uranium fuel for use in advanced reactors will allow us to extract more energy, and has the potential to reduce storage requirements for nuclear waste by up to 90 percent,” Bush said. “And when we (begin reprocessing), we will be able to answer a lot of the charges of our critics that say, ‘What are you going to do with the fuel?’ ”
He pushed a proposal for a global partnership — that would include France, Japan, China and Russia — to develop technologies for the safe recycling of spent fuel.
Bush touted his budget proposal, which includes $495 million to continue progress on licensing Yucca Mountain in Nevada as a national repository for spent fuel.
Bush said the solution to the nation’s energy needs must include nuclear plants, but should include other sources as well. He pushed for more ethanol-friendly cars, improved technology for wind and solar energy, increased extraction of U.S. petroleum reserves, more efficient coal technology and improved battery technology for vehicles.
“And your (battery-powered) automobile won’t look like a golf cart,” he said to an appreciative Alabama audience. “It will be a normal-size pickup truck.”
Bush said the energy legislation debated in the Senate “falls far short of the ambitious goal I laid out,” but would assist in his goal of decreasing dependence on foreign oil.
The president gave several nods to environmental concerns, stressing that nuclear power is environment friendly.
“I remind those who share my concern about greenhouse gases that nuclear energy produces no greenhouse gases,” he said.
“If you are interested in cleaning up the air, then you ought to be an advocate for nuclear power. ... There is no single solution to climate change, but there can be no solution without nuclear power.”
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