The nuclear disaster in Fukushima, Japan rages on with disasters recurring each day at the plant – according to a Japanese Nuclear Expert. For the uninitiated, the nuclear reactors at Fukushima, Japan were inundated by a tsunami on March 11, 2011, causing three of the plant’s six nuclear reactors to go into meltdown. The situation is still not contained and radioactive materials are spewing from the site every day poisoning the waters of the Pacific Ocean.
Is the same scenario brewing in Eastern Tennessee along the South Fork Holston River? The Boone Dam is approximately 19 miles above the confluence of the North and South Forks of the Holston River near Kingsport TN. October 20, 2014, a sinkhole was discovered at the toe of the dam that allowed water to seep through. According to WCYB News 5, the lake level was lowered earlier than normal as a precautionary measure.
According to WJHL, on April 28, 2015, [T]he head of the nation’s largest public utility… TVA President Bill Johnson toured Boone Dam [and] said water was moving through the base of the earth-filled portion of the dam carrying sediment… “we do have water coming through the dam because the sinkhole has sunk further,” Johnson said pointing to a section of caved-in parking lot at the base of Boone Dam… Johnson said it is essential for TVA to figure out how to stop the flow of water through the base… because continued flow of sediment-laden lake water could destabilize the dam.
According to the Kingsport Times News on April 29, 2015, “TVA has spent millions of dollars looking for the fix and is likely to spend millions more”, Johnson said, adding “cost is not a factor”.
The problem is, aside from several good size towns – including Knoxville, TN – that would be affected by the failure of this dam, there are two nuclear reactors downstream from Boone Dam, the Watts Bar Nuclear Plant and the Sequoyah Nuclear Plant. As the water moves downstream, it could inundate those plants as surely as the Fukushima plant was inundated by the tsunami.
Well, the news is not all bad. A source in the industry who wished to remain anonymous told NoozSaurus “Bad news for TVA, but no danger to the public from radiation, as the TVA plants are PWRs (Pressurized Water Reactors), with the radioactive loop being isolated from the circulating water loop. It is a Westinghouse design, designed specifically to combat a loss of coolant scenario.”
Our source went on to ask a very pointed question, “The real question here, is who the hell would site a nuke plant along a limestone base??? My guess is that Bechtel was the original design engineer, they have done things like this in the past.”
I suspect the answer to the question posed in the title is, no, we shouldn’t worry about a Fukushima happening in Tennessee, but where else in the U.S. are there improperly designed and cited nuclear reactors that wouldn’t fare as well as Watts Bar and Sequoyah.