published Thursday, July 21st, 2011

Protesters ask TVA to stop building nuclear reactors

Wenona Kuesh, Isabelle McCurdy, Sophie McCurdy  and other anti-nuclear protesters march in front of the Market Street. TVA building to demonstrate against the proposed development of nuclear plants. Anti-nuclear activists and their families met in Miller Park to prepare for a zombie flash mob into the entrance of TVA in order to deliver a letter to Tom Kilgore regarding proposed nuclear plant.
Wenona Kuesh, Isabelle McCurdy, Sophie McCurdy and other anti-nuclear protesters march in front of the Market Street. TVA building to demonstrate against the proposed development of nuclear plants. Anti-nuclear activists and their families met in Miller Park to prepare for a zombie flash mob into the entrance of TVA in order to deliver a letter to Tom Kilgore regarding proposed nuclear plant.
Photo by Jenna Walker.
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A survey for the Nuclear Energy Institute shows Southern nuclear plant neighbors who live within 10 miles of a nuclear plant have more confidence in nuclear industry than any other region of the country. Below is the percent in each region that would support a new reactor nearby.

* South — 75 percent

* West — 68 percent

* Midwest — 67 percent

* Northeast — 55 percent

Source: Bisconti Research Inc.

With deep under-eye shadows and painted-on blood stains, zombies brought a nuclear protest to the TVA headquarters on Market Street on Wednesday.

Holding signs that read "No new nukes" and "Bellefonte = Danger + Debt," about 50 protesters ranging from young teens to grandparents crowded the sidewalk at the Tennessee Valley Authority building downtown to ask CEO Tom Kilgore and the TVA board to say no to more nuclear reactors in the Tennessee Valley.

"We don't want our children to have to have this kind of test," said Sandy Kurtz, holding up a radiation Geiger counter like those in photographs of Japanese health officials scanning children on the heels of the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear meltdowns in March.

According to a number of recent polls, Chattanooga's protest may be just the tip of the cooling tower of America's frosty attitude toward nuclear power after an earthquake and tsunami led to multiple meltdowns in Japan.

An ABC and Washington Post poll in mid-April found an 11-percentage point increase in the number of Americans opposing the building of new nuclear plants.

That poll found that 64 percent of respondents now oppose new nuclear plant construction, while 33 percent support it.

In a similar poll in 2008, 53 percent of Americans opposed new nuclear plant construction.

But in the South, acceptance of nuclear power among residents who live within 10 miles of a nuclear plant but don't work there is stronger than anywhere else in the country, said Steve Kerekes, communication director for the Nuclear Energy Institute, a nuclear power trade group.

And TVA spokesman Ray Golden said a separate poll TVA recently contracted shows that 86 percent of people living around Bellefonte supported the plant being built and operating.

"Even after Fukushima," Golden said.

Neighbors vs public

  • Zombies protest Bellefonte revival
    About 40 people, some dressed as zombies, gathered in front of the Tennessee Valley Authority headquarters Wednesday to protest TVA possibly reviving the Bellefonte Nuclear Plant in Hollywood, Ala.

Ann Bisconti, president of Bisconti Research Inc., the firm that has conducted the biennial Nuclear Plant Neighbor Survey for NEI for the past decade, said it is a given that people willing to live near a nuclear plant have fewer concerns about nuclear safety than most people.

"We find there is a real familiarity in these communities. Maybe their kids play baseball with someone whose dad works at the plant, and they trust that guy to perform his job well," she said.

But even in those communities, she said, the Fukushima disaster rattled support -- especially when those people were asked if they favored a new reactor being built at the plant nearest them.

Nationally, support for a new reactor next door dropped from 76 percent in 2009 to 67 percent in June 2011, when the most recent survey was made, Bisconti said.

She declined to provide specific plant survey numbers, deferring to the utilities.

TVA's Golden on Wednesday only offered the number for Bellefonte -- taken in a special survey because the biennial report only involves operating nuclear plants. He said the full results of TVA's special survey may be released later this year.

The Bellefonte question

The zombies' protest of Bellefonte was prompted by TVA President Kilgore's plan to put the plant's completion and restart on the Aug. 18 agenda for the utility's board of directors.

"Given uncertainties regarding TVA financial status, Bellefonte's location, questionable reactor design and the future of the nuclear power industry in general, we believe it is ill-advised and premature to approve construction at this time," said a letter the group presented to Kilgore's secretary at the end of the protest.

"We're concerned over the danger and debt of all of this and the fact that we have other answers and solutions that don't create nuclear waste," Kurtz said.

She said the four groups involved in the protest are hoping TVA will discontinue all nuclear power, but especially Bellefonte, which already is nearly 40 years old.

Calling Bellefonte a "corpse" and "nuclear zombie," Lou Zeller, with the Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League, said the plant has a questionable reactor design and many of its vital parts were sold for scrap and cannibalized for spare parts in other reactors.

Garry Morgan, a retired U.S. Army nuclear biological and chemical warfare protection officer, said the plant sits on sinkhole-prone terrain two miles away from a seismic fault that wasn't factored into it's safety design.

"I am very concerned over the deceit of TVA management's reporting to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and the public," Morgan said, referring to problems at Browns Ferry during the week after tornadoes forced the plant into emergency shutdown and several systems at the plant failed. He also cited the problems discovered in TVA operations and communications in 2008 involving the Kingston ash spill.

"There can be no compromise of trust and reliability of personnel as it relates to nuclear programs," Morgan said.

Shaping public opinion

TVA's Golden said the peaceful protesters' display "was creative," and those in the gathering had a right to make the display and voice their opinions.

"But TVA disagrees with them. We think Bellefonte is important to our future ... and nuclear power is safe. Can it be safer? Absolutely, and we're committed to making it so." he said.

But can TVA turn fear to confidence after Fukushima?

"Time will tell," he said. "Right now I think a lot of people are asking what happened? And could it happen here? Our job is to try and reassure folks that these plants are built safe, they were designed safe, and they're operating safe."

Golden said TVA will tackle the task one attitude at a time.

"We're not going to go into some slick ad campaigns," he said. "We're not adding additional dollars to go out and better inform people about nuclear power."

Instead he said the utility will use "dialogue."

"We may start more plant tours of Bellefonte. I think it's more a one-person-at-a-time thing, and we'll offer availability and use our website and maybe social media a little more," he said.

Kathleen Ferris, a grandmother who drove from Murfreesboro, Tenn., to be part of the protest, said it will take more than that to change her mind.

"I have two grandchildren, and the whole world has grandchildren," she said.

"Nuclear reactors emit radiation. Radiation causes cancer. It causes childhood leukemia. It can cause genetic defects," she said. "I don't want the grandchildren of the world to be genetically modified. I just want a healthy, clean world for them to live in. And that's why I'm carrying a sign that says 'Go green!'"

about Pam Sohn...

Pam Sohn has been reporting or editing Chattanooga news for 25 years. A Walden’s Ridge native, she began her journalism career with a 10-year stint at the Anniston (Ala.) Star. She came to the Chattanooga Times Free Press in 1999 after working at the Chattanooga Times for 14 years. She has been a city editor, Sunday editor, wire editor, projects team leader and assistant lifestyle editor. As a reporter, she also has covered the police, ...

Comments do not represent the opinions of the Chattanooga Times Free Press, nor does it review every comment. Profanities, slurs and libelous remarks are prohibited. For more information you can view our Terms & Conditions and/or Ethics policy.
nucanuck said...

Bad nuclear accidents that contaminate large areas permanently don't happen often and might never happen at Bellafonte. If there were to be an accident, most of the people nearby wouldn't suffer or die from the radiation until years later.

Some say nuclear energy is our future. I hope not.

July 21, 2011 at 2:02 a.m.
joepulitzer said...


July 21, 2011 at 5:42 a.m.
Ldybg1963 said...

Bellefonte Nuclear Plant will be a great asset to our surrounding Counties. TVA gives so much back to the schools and communites. I am looking forward to seeing the Bellefonte Nuclear Plant open and bring jobs and much needed money to the local economy. Nuclear Power is the future and we need to be prepared.

July 21, 2011 at 5:54 a.m.
friedchick said...

How nice of them to ask. Hey, please do not pee or pop in my yard... and while you're at it, do not puke on my porch. I am just asking. Seeing to how we are just asking please do not raise my bill.

July 21, 2011 at 6:43 a.m.
sunnydelight said...

While we are at it . Let's stop all coal mineing and oil drilling. How about not building any more airplanes or automobiles. Each one of these have killed more than all the nuclear plants in the world.

July 21, 2011 at 7:35 a.m.
quietreader said...

I bet every one of those zombies went home to sit in their air conditioned homes with their TVs and lights on. Then cooked thier meals and heated their water to take a shower. Wonder what people will do when we can't burn coal, oil, or gas and there are no nuke plants to make power. After all the lessons learned over the past 30 years I'd rather live near a new nuke plant than an old one. However, I really don't mind living near an old one. But that's just me.

July 21, 2011 at 7:38 a.m.
mrredskin said...

flash mob, eh? i see, what... 12-15 people in that picture? looks like they got their message across (sarcasm).

Pam never seems to find anyone in favor of nuclear power. You would think the percentage of those against nukes would be 100% if you read all of her articles.

Maybe I'll run out to Sequoyah at shift change and poll that random, diverse group and see what their views on nuke power are...

July 21, 2011 at 8 a.m.
inquiringmind said...

In a report in today's news, even the commissioners on the NRC who wanted to "go slow" on new regulations and approvals stated "the task force had found no imminent threat to public health and safety from continued operation of the nation’s 104 power reactors, or from extending their licenses" and a third said, “I personally do not believe that our existing regulatory framework is broken.” (Matthew Wald, NYT)

We ought always to press government regulators to asess and ensure safety with some sense of reason, not favor or paranoia, because government needs oversight. But, for our zombie friends and some mid-level compliance officer to make a one-to-one comparison of the Japanese plant sitting by the sea near a dyamic, active fault with one in East Tennessee sitting on an ancient fault whose recent siesmic record is a few 1 to 3 magnitude tremors, and which is hundreds of miles from an ocean just magnifies the source of their concern: paranoia.

Nuclear power is one of the safest and least environmentally damaging sources of electricity we have (including mining the natural resources needed for fuel); and there are newer nuclear technologies that are even safer. Even the worst accident involving US nuclear power plants has had minimal or no long term damage, especially compared to mercury, arsenic, selenium and CO2 spewing coal and gas-fired plants.

July 21, 2011 at 8:48 a.m.

Gamma ray bursts on the opposite side of the universe are causing approximately 300 times more damage to our bodies than nuclear reactors.

The black hole at the galactic core is causing approximately 40 times more damage to our genetics than nuclear reactors.

Our sun is in our own solar system and much weaker than the other two aforementioned sources, but it causes much more damage than any nuclear reactor on the planet. How many sunburns have you obtained from a bad day in your house next to a reactor?

Finally, the Inertial Confinement Device that I'm using in my garage to play around with deuterium fusion gives the city more dose than Seqouyah does by a factor of a few thousand. And any 12 year old with an understanding of vacuum pumps and $100 and an eBay account can source the stuff to build it without any regulation...

Why? Because it's safe. I wouldn't want you protesting outside my garage (and better not find you protesting there either). So leave commercial nuclear alone.

July 21, 2011 at 9:42 a.m.
bigbearzzz said...

Trouble...I've always wanted to have superhuman powers....think you could hook me with the garage experiments? Maybe hit me with a few gamma rays or something?

July 21, 2011 at 11:08 a.m.

Sorry Dr. Horrible, worst I can do is give you a few hours of x-rays and give you a mild rash and that's only if your skin is very tender. So, Chattanooga is safe from both the evil Rash Boy as well as Nuclear Power.

July 21, 2011 at 11:28 a.m.
Chiyote said...

Alright, so I thought about actually participating in this. Several of my friends told me about it, and well... no one loves dressing up like a Zombie more than me. But seriously, TVA's plans are beneficial. $50 says at least half of the people that came to "protest" have no idea what it is they are protesting, (or don't care)

July 21, 2011 at 11:33 a.m.
dao1980 said...

Slacktivism at its finest... and probably funniest looking.

July 21, 2011 at 11:43 a.m.
SeaMonkey said...

"a healthy, clean world", huh? ..........considering how much energy is needed to keep our economy going, heat our homes, keep our lights on..and so's pretty darn clean and healthy. so stop bitching. how about you whiners find alternatives to coal, oil, nuclear, hydro, and gas...that really works on a mass scale. until then stop bitching and be grateful that you have electricity, heat, fuel and all the things you have as a result of that...

mushy, spoiled, bitchy, whiney, self-absorbed and narcissistic ingrates......i'm so sick of cry baby liberals........

i think down here there's more chance of children being "genetically modified" from inbreeding than there is from radiation.

July 21, 2011 at 12:31 p.m.
MacGyverguy said...

"Nuclear reactors emit radiation. Radiation causes cancer. It causes childhood leukemia. It can cause genetic defects," she said. "I don't want the grandchildren of the world to be genetically modified. I just want a healthy, clean world for them to live in. And that's why I'm carrying a sign that says 'Go green!'"

I'm sure someone had to help her tie her Velcro shoes and the spelling on her sign. Moron. You receive more radiation from the smoke detectors in your house than you do standing at the fence of a nuclear power plant.

July 21, 2011 at 12:32 p.m.
jsgood35 said...

If so many people oppose it, then you would think more than 50 people would be protesting.

July 21, 2011 at 12:36 p.m.

Type in 10 CFR 50 on google and start reading the NRC legislation that all plants have to abide by (except our garage experiements of course). You don't have to be an engineer to realize how many safe we are after getting just a couple pages in. I love America.

July 21, 2011 at 1:09 p.m.
bigbearzzz said...

dang...i was really hopin for a cross between spiderman and the hulk kinda radiation exposure. Oh well. And yes, people are funny but they reacted the same way when the first television was invented too.

July 21, 2011 at 1:44 p.m.
kVass said...

Kern-Energie? alvast bedankt nog! Hoka hey perfection is injection I'd rather be blown seppuku sucks

July 21, 2011 at 3:05 p.m.
GarryMorgan said...

Politicians and proponents of nuclear power come forward and state that nuclear is safe, cheap and clean- that is not true. One nuclear power plant costs between $8 and $10 billion dollars. No deaths as a result of U.S. Nuclear Power Plants? Tell the 50,000 plus families and workers at the nuclear fuel facilities who are sick, dead or dying. Tell the children which have leukemia living within 5 miles of nuclear power plants that nuclear power is safe. Tell the U.S. taxpayers who have paid to date over $7.1 billion dollars in health and death claims as a result of U.S. Nuclear Power since 2004 that nuclear power is safe and clean.

The poster above which called the grandmother a moron who was protesting and expressing her concerns about her grand-children's future from exposure to radiation from nuclear power plants, that lady holds a doctorate degree, and strives to tell the public the truth. It is not the protesting doctor that is the problem, it is ignorance and the actions of those who endeavor to intentionally lie to the public. That lady would do all she could to assist the TVA in resolving their problems, those who deceive and call names, those are the extremists who cause problems. Peaceful protest to express concerns are very much part of the American culture and experiance.

When criminals wire a whistle-blowers car for an explosive device, tamper with the mechanical systems of the whistle-blowers automobile and continuously threaten and attempt intimidation, then keep it up after loosing several law suits costing millions of dollars, something is wrong. There is a serious security lapse relating to personnel reliability and trust. Something is wrong with those who manage the nuclear industry and facilities, not to address this obvious security issue is insanity. Worse, reports indicate it is still ongoing today, many employees are aware of problems but are scared to come forward due to past and current intimidation.

There should be an investigation into the security threat apparently perpetrated by the nuclear industry's contractors, the operator corporations or staff. There can be no compromise of nuclear security, -zero- tolerance concerning nuclear security issues. The allegations involve criminal actions of employees or contractors of nuclear facilities. It is insanity to not fully investigate and report to the public the results of any and all investigations. If there are arrests, that also must be reported to the public.

The positive side of yesterdays event, the results are apparent. The nuclear industry's comments within are evidence of the effect of the protest and request presented at TVA's Chattanooga Office yesterday. Thank you Ms. Sohn and the Chattanooga Times Free Press for an excellent piece of reporting.

July 21, 2011 at 3:29 p.m.
JoeHill said...

SeaMonkey, you need to find a better way to communicate with others in this forum that is befitting of an intelligent adult setting a good example for any youths that may be reading these comments.

July 22, 2011 at 10:27 a.m.

If you're truly taking an anti-nuclear stance, why aren't you walking around with dosimetry and handheld monitors? Seems like the basis is anti-dose, right? Then you should start by walking around with a neutron counter and look for all the sources and then post ALARA signs as appropriate to block off certain areas from public traffic until the dose sources can be resolved. Begin by roping off all self-powered EXIT signs and the area around them, all cesium-containing wrist-watches, people dosed with isotopes for medical reasons, power lines and substations for bremsstrahlung radiation produced by the HV electronics, old CRT televisions, and old glass or ceramic products produced before 1980. We receive more dose from any one of these sources than we do from nuclear plants in the US currently.

Don't say I'm a pro-nuclear plant proponent. I'm not. I think fission is the wrong answer...but it's a good enough answer for now. The safety concerns are valid CONCERNS but nothing more than concerns as they are founded on incorrect understanding of all the principles behind nuclear, and anyone who claims true understanding of the accident scenarios involved and is talking about it on TV is potentially a terrorist or someone connected with a leak of sensitive information that does not belong in public hands as it simply isn't safe there.

I'm not a pro-nuclear plant proponent--at least not as they currently exist. The real answer is fusion. Much better energy supply there and will last longer. Since high school I've been playing with Inertial Confinement, and my first deuterium fusion event occurred in a Smucker's Grape Jelly jar that I was terrified would collapse when I tried to pull a vacuum on the jar. I'd love to be the Person That Figured It All Out, but for now I'm just an idiot with a Fusor in a garage who can't make my power output balance my power input...

Here's a very valid question: until some researcher like me figures something out (probably someone with a lot more money and time), fission reactors are still the best option. Why don't you guys try to work up a compromise? That is, something where we solve the energy problem but address some of the safety concerns you guys have and prove there are solutions? For example, I bet if you went for a safer, alternative nuclear fuel, perhaps protesting Pro-Thorium instead of Anti-Nuclear-as-a-Whole, I bet you guys could gain some serious ground, make the world a safer place (in your opinion anyways...), and still not hurt progress toward solution of the energy crisis.

You anti-nuclear people are making me nervous--I'm wondering if one day I'll have bricks thrown through my window or a firebomb on my car for the toys I play with in my garage... or worse.

July 22, 2011 at 10:35 a.m.
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