News from the Tennessee Valley Opinion


NRC should extend Browns Ferry license

It's hoped that the April 2006 decision by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission will be a positive one for Browns Ferry Nuclear Plant.

The Tennessee Valley Authority has asked the NRC to extend the life of the plant by 20 years.

The licenses for the three units are scheduled to expire in 2013, 2014 and 2016.

Safety, of course, is the first consideration the NRC must make concerning the renewal request. Recent NRC inspections of the plant and ongoing work to restart Unit 1 have been positive, so approval bodes well for the future.

Some environmentalists, however, decry the renewal, citing dangers to the environment and the inherent danger of having a nuclear power plant nearby under any operating conditions.

The NRC, however, has completed a study that shows extending the plant's life will have no significant adverse impact on the environment. In fact, the study indicates the environment could suffer more if the plant were shut down when the operating permits expire.

Browns Ferry has the same problem that other nuclear power plants across the country have run into — getting rid of spent fuel. The local plant and others have storage areas where the spent fuel rods are kept under water in secure facilities.

Eventually, a safe way will be found to ship these rods to an underground storage facility expected to be built in Nevada.

Considering the pollution of coal-burning plants and the expense of gas-powered plants, TVA is making the best choice in keeping its nuclear program going. Nuclear power and power generated by water at dams remain the cheapest alternatives to keeping the Tennessee Valley supplied with dependable power.

Extending Browns Ferry's license to operate beyond its original 40-year time frame would have less of an adverse impact on the environment than not renewing the licenses.

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