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SUNDAY, APRIL 22, 2007
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OP-ED

Tennessee Valley Corridor a partnership in the future

By Mickey Crutcher

The Tennessee Valley Corridor has a long history of serving our country by deploying this region’s leading science, technology and national security assets to help solve important national challenges.

It was the Tennessee Valley Corridor that led the way when the men and women in Oak Ridge helped develop the technology that won World War II, and when the men and women in Huntsville developed, tested and built the Saturn V rocket to help place the first man on the moon.

Today, the Corridor again has the opportunity to demonstrate national leadership through regional cooperation on the important issue of energy security.

One of the clearest ways to help reduce our country’s dependency on foreign sources of energy is the re-establishment and expansion of our domestic nuclear power capabilities.

Safe, environmentally friendly nuclear power was first developed in the United States, and it now supplies more than 20 percent of the electricity used here. But in other countries (France and Japan, for example), nuclear power is used to a far greater extent. Not only has it helped with their energy security, but it has also helped protect their environments. The key is that nuclear power plants do not emit greenhouse gases like fossil fuel plants, nor are they dependent on unstable or hostile regions of the world for their fuel supply; two obvious and very important benefits for the United States.

As one of the nation’s premier science and technology centers, the Valley is once again well positioned to help lead the way as we seek to meet the nation’s rising needs for safe, clean, abundant energy.

The Tennessee Valley Authority is leading America’s utility industry to a future with more electricity from clean and safe nuclear power. TVA’s restart of Unit 1 at Browns Ferry Nuclear Plant next month demonstrates that the industry can meet both schedule and cost expectations. Once it is up and running, this plant will produce enough electricity to power 650,000 Valley homes. TVA is also considering completing the construction of Unit 2 at Watts Bar Nuclear Plant near Spring City, Tenn., and partnering with NuStart to gain a license for an advanced nuclear plant at the Bellefonte site near Scottsboro.

The Y-12 National Security Complex, part of the National Nuclear Security Administration, continues an integral role in strengthening national security by creating, safeguarding and safely disposing of nuclear materials. Y-12 was recently acknowledged as the “Uranium Center of Excellence” for the NNSA, recognizing Y-12’s key position supporting national defense, nuclear non-proliferation and other skills related to handling and protecting uranium. Y-12 is actively preparing to support domestic nuclear power needs by modernizing the site and its work force.

Additionally, the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, one of the lead Department of Energy laboratories for civilian nuclear-energy research, has been heavily involved in a variety of nuclear projects, including efforts to develop breeder reactors, which produce more fissile fuel than they consume, and the development of advanced materials suitable for use in future nuclear systems. ORNL has state-of-the-art nuclear research facilities, including the High Flux Isotope Reactor , the Irradiated Materials and Fuels Laboratories, and the Radio Chemical Engineering Development Center.

The U.S. and international nuclear communities heavily use all of these facilities.

Recently, ORNL and NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center were tasked to assist in the design and potential development of affordable fission surface power systems for providing a safe, power-rich environment on the surface of the moon and Mars. The Early Flight Fission Test Facility at MSFC provides a unique capability to affordably complete high fidelity development testing. MSFC has extensive capability that could be used to design, develop and qualify fission surface power and nuclear thermal propulsion systems for missions to the moon, Mars, or beyond. Such work related to nuclear systems in space will not only benefit space exploration, but will provide direct benefits to all of us in the future.

The future is bright for the Tennessee Valley Corridor. Strengthening our leadership role in civilian nuclear technology and the construction of next-generation nuclear power plants is yet another way the Corridor is
playing a leadership role in this country.

For more information on the Tennessee Valley Corridor, please visit www.tennesseevalleycorridor.org.

Mickey Crutcher is president of Maximum Technology Corp., in Huntsville, and is a member of the Tennessee Valley Corridor board of directors and one of the partners involved in building the Tennessee Valley Nuclear Energy Coalition.

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