published Wednesday, March 23rd, 2011

TVA says its plants are more robust than Japan’s crippled nuclear reactors

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    Staff photo by Jake Daniels/Chattanooga Times Free Press -- Aug 20, 2010 Pictured are the cooling towers at the Sequoyah Nuclear Plant on Friday afternoon.

The nuclear power plants operated by the Tennessee Valley Authority are better able to withstand the loss of outside power than was the crippled Fukushima nuclear plant following the recent earthquake and tsunami in Japan, TVA’s top power official said today.

“It’s important to understand that the designs of the Japanese plants are somewhat different and there are features built into our plants that make them more robust in terms of being able to deal with these sorts of natural disasters,” TVA Chief Operating Officer Bill McCollum Jr. said.

TVA’s oldest nuclear plant -- the three-reactor Browns Ferry Nuclear Plant in Alabama -- is a similar General Electric boiling water reactor design to the plant that exploded and leaked radiation in Japan.

But McCollum told reporters during a media briefing that the federal utility has installed hardened vents to prevent the type of hydrogen gas explosions that have damaged four of the six reactors at the Fukushima plant over the past 12 days. TVA also has put in more backup power and steam-generated pumps than what the Japanese plant has to allow for water circulation to continue even if power is cutoff to the plant following a natural disaster.

McCollum said the risks of a major earthquake or sudden flooding in the Tennessee Valley is far less than in Japan.

“But our plants are designed, built and operated to be safe under all of those conditions,” he said.

For details read Friday’s Times Free Press.

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