Wednesday, December 24, 2008

I'll Take Nuclear, Please

Latest fossil fuel disaster, this time quite near my hometown of Oak Ridge:
A wall holding back 80 acres of sludge from a coal plant in central Tennessee broke this week, spilling more than 500 million gallons of waste into the surrounding area.

The sludge, a byproduct of ash from coal combustion, was contained at a retention site at the Tennessee Valley Authority's power plant in Kingston, about 40 miles east of Knoxville, agency officials said.

The retention wall breached early Monday, sending the sludge downhill and damaging 15 homes. All the residents were evacuated, and three homes were deemed uninhabitable, a TVA spokesman told CNN.

The plant sits on a tributary of the Tennessee River called the Clinch River.

"We deeply regret that a retention wall for ash containment at our Kingston Fossil Plant failed, resulting in an ash slide and damage to nearby homes," TVA said in a statement released Tuesday.

TVA spokesman Gil Francis told CNN that up to 400 acres of land had been coated by the sludge, a bigger area than the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill.

Could TVA please finish Watts Bar 2 and shutter these decrepit old coal plants? In terms of real environmental consequences, this is bigger than any accident ever experienced by the nuclear power industry in the U.S.--Brown's Ferry, Three Mile Island, any of them.

Furthermore, this is a good example of how "clean coal" can't be expected to be "clean." All the ash will have to be put somewhere--and some will inevitably leak out into the environment, with deleterious effects. But given that "clean coal" primarily exists as a marketing slogan at the moment, it's not really serious competition for new nuclear plants anyway. So make mine nuclear, please. Before your coal plants end up destroying my house and/or killing me.

6 comments:

DV8 2XL said...

If the pro-nuclear forces in the U.S. have any gumption at all, they will turn this event into coal's Chernobyl. You guys have to start right now pushing this everywhere you can, particularly outside the inner circle of nuclear's supporters. This needs a campaign right out of the antinuke's playbook: maximum exposure, maximum fear mongering. It's an opportunity to lay it on thick.

I'm not saying you should lie - only that you should selectively emphasize the worst aspects of this event. And for sure it needs it's own website up within the next few days max.

Now is the time to strike, this has been handed to you on a platter - don't let it pass.

George Carty said...

Unfortunately, most anti-nuclear people think that the alternative to nuclear energy is renewables, not fossil fuels.

Sovietologist said...

The thing is, even in a very optimistic scenario TVA has no good renewable options. We don't have direct sunlight much of the year so concentrated solar is out, and lousy insolation would make solar PV uneconomic. Wind resources are wanting (TVA has a wind farm near Oak Ridge that operates at a considerably lower capacity factor than TVA had hoped), as are geothermal resources. As for hydro, TVA tapped out most of the available sites back in the 20th century. For Tennessee, the choice is unarguably between nukes and coal--and I know which I prefer.

George Carty said...

The thing is, even in a very optimistic scenario TVA has no good renewable options.
Not in the fantasy world that most renewable-energy enthusiasts live in.

Ashutosh said...

Ever since I read the article in Nature which said that the financial crisis may put the brakes on nuclear utilities I have been depressed

http://www.nature.com/news/2008/081119/full/456286a.html

RightDemocrat said...

The government should create more TVA-like authorities to build additional nuclear power plants. Energy independence is far too important to leave to the private sector.