News from the Tennessee Valley Opinion


Waste, shame to can Browns Ferry plant

The Tennessee Valley Authority would not have spent about $4 billion updating Units 2 and 3 at Browns Ferry Nuclear Plant and be on the way to a $1.8 billion restart of Unit 1 if officials thought that in less than a decade the government would start to close them.

Nevertheless, TVA is going through the process of asking the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to extend the lives of the units 20 years beyond the original 40-year licensing period.

Hearings in Athens this week allowed the public to join the debate, which it did. Officials heard that the impact of extending lives of the units will have less negative impact on the environment than closing them and building new ones or burning more coal to make electricity.

One opponent voiced concern for the additional nuclear waste that someday the NRC must transfer from on-site storage to Nevada.

Forty years seemed a prudent time to keep the stresses of radioactive materials contained back when nuclear plants were first being planned and built. Today, with major updating and a history of nuclear plants to use in developing new NRC guidelines, the plants should be good for at least the time asked for in the licensing.

The nation must continue to develop and expand alternate sources of energy. Nuclear energy is an important part of weaning the nation off petroleum.

Sure, there are concerns about storage of spent fuel rods and rising costs. Yet, having the nation less dependent on foreign oil will be cheaper in the long term.

The nation should proceed, but with caution, in expanding use of nuclear energy. TVA's approach to bringing Browns Ferry's three units back to life and asking for a new license falls within that framework.

The Valley needs Browns Ferry's reliability in building the region's future.

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