The Age of Dinosaurs

It’s hard to imagine that once upon a time nuclear energy was looked at as an endless, pollution free source of energy. I remember going to a plant under construction for a tour and being treated to a presentation about the impossibility of out of control reactions, the impenetrability of containment structures, the low cost and efficiency. Energy too cheap to meter they said.

Well today we know that’s all a pack of lies, that the waste of nuclear energy production is damn near impossible to get rid of except on geologic time scales, plants are expensive and tied to obsolete methods of distribution, and accidents infrequent but devastating and impossible to fix.

No more radiation than you get in Edinburgh, while not mentioning that Edinburgh is mostly Granite which is pretty radioactive actually though not enough so that you can go critical (and they call it critical for a reason).

And if you want cheap, look no farther than solar-electric which has become cost competitive with even the cheapest carbon fuel (or would be if you stopped giving welfare to Big Oil). True, it also depends on an out of control highly radioactive nuclear fusion reaction from a honking great big explosion, but since it’s about 93 Million miles away, you don’t notice it so much unless you forget your SPF 50 sunscreen.

So it’s no wonder that these Dinosaurs are reaching an unlamented extinction.

Unfinished Nuclear Plant, 4 Decades and $5 Billion Later, Will Be Sold
SEPT. 11, 2016

After spending more than 40 years and $5 billion on an unfinished nuclear power plant in northeastern Alabama, the nation’s largest federal utility is preparing to sell the property at a fraction of its cost.

The utility, the Tennessee Valley Authority, has set a minimum bid of $36.4 million for its Bellefonte Nuclear Plant and 1,600 surrounding acres of waterfront property on the Tennessee River. The deal includes two unfinished nuclear reactors, transmission lines, office and warehouse buildings, eight miles of roads and a 1,000-space parking lot.

Initial bids are due Monday, and at least one company has expressed interest in the site, with plans to use it for alternative energy production. But the utility is not particular about what the buyer does — using the site for power production, industrial manufacturing, recreation or even residences would all be fine, said Scott Fiedler, an agency spokesman.

The utility initially planned to build four reactors, but demand for power never met expectations and work halted in 1988. A series of starts and stops preceded the decision to sell Bellefonte.

Sales of nuclear plants are not all that unusual; the Nuclear Energy Institute, an industry group, says at least 30 units have been sold in part or in whole since 1999.

For sale: $5 billion non-working nuclear power plant, as is
By Derek Hawkins, Washington Post
September 12 at 7:15 AM

Bellefonte has never burned an ounce of nuclear fuel or delivered a watt of power. The plant employs a mere 50. Dust covers the piping. Turkey vultures have perched on the 480-foot pale gray cooling towers.

As recently as 2011, TVA sought to restart work on one of the reactors, but by 2014, the utility was ready to abandon the project again. Experts said it could cost $8 billion to complete, the Chattanooga Times Free Press reported.

The nuclear industry as a whole slowed following the meltdown at the Three Mile Island in 1979 in Pennsylvania. Since then, U.S. regulators have approved construction of only two new nuclear reactors.

TVA is offering up quite a lot in its sale of Bellefonte: a pair of partially-finished nuclear reactors, transmission lines, eight miles of service roads, a parking lot with a 1,000 spaces, and office buildings — all on 1,600 acres of riverfront property.

TVA officials said they hope to find a buyer by October. What the buyer does with the property? TVA isn’t concerned. Spokesman Scott Fiedler told the AP that the agency has no problem with the future owner using it for manufacturing, energy, recreation, or even housing.

Frank Duke, a pipefitter who worked on the plant for a decade, still calls Bellefonte “one of the best plants TVA ever built,” even though it may never generate power. Now the mayor of Hollywood, Alabama, where the plant is located, Duke said he wants to see his work come full-circle. His town needs the jobs the plant promised to create, he told the Free Press.

“The plant was 90 percent complete when TVA quit building it, and I know they would have to change and update some things,” he said, “but I sure hope somebody could operate it to make power.”

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