Monday, August 24, 2009

TVA works for the war machine

Can TVA be trusted to maintain safety with radioactive nuclear bomb making gas when they can't even contain coal ash?

No matter where we turn, we can't escape the militarism that is America's biggest business.
Even paying that electric bill contributes.
The Tennessee Valley Authority's Watts Bar Nuclear Plant in East Tennessee produces tritium for the U.S. nuclear arms program.

TVA's role in nuclear defense program to grow

Plant near Chattanooga to make gas for warheads

By Anne Paine • The Tennessean • August 24, 2009
The United States maintains a hardline policy opposing countries' use of civilian nuclear reactors to produce material for weapons, including Iran and North Korea.

But that is what the U.S. Department of Energy has been doing at the Tennessee Valley Authority's Watts Bar reactor in East Tennessee since 2003, and now the department has signaled its intention to start additional production of tritium at TVA's Sequoyah plant, near Chattanooga.

Tritium, which is a radioactive form of hydrogen, is needed to boost the explosive power of nuclear warheads. The DOE's 2010 budget proposal includes plans to make tritium at the two Sequoyah reactors, and TVA spokesman Terry Johnson confirmed that the electricity-generating plant is being prepared for the production of the weapons material.

"It's part of national defense needs, and TVA is participating in that," Johnson said. "We feel it's a saving overall for the nation as a whole." He said he doesn't expect production to start before at least 2012.

Critics say, in addition to posing environmental and safety concerns, the move is undermining U.S. policy and the international nuclear nonproliferation treaty that it is a party to.

"The expansion of and continued use of these facilities contradicts our message elsewhere around the world that civilian-power-generating reactors should not be used for military purposes," said Daryl Kimball, executive director of the Washington-based Arms Control Association, which was established in 1971 to monitor and encourage arms control.

"This has been a core principle of the United States and our allies for more than four decades."

Jennifer Wagner, a spokeswoman for DOE's National Nuclear Safety Administration, said, "Our justification is obviously that our core mission is to maintain the safety and reliability of our stockpile so we have an effective deterrent."

She referred to a speech by President Barack Obama in Prague earlier this year in which he said the goal was to reduce the overall number of nuclear weapons but to maintain an arsenal sufficient to discourage other countries from nuclear arms use.

Tritium production at Watts Bar means higher radiation doses for those at the nuclear plant and within a 50-mile radius, but it's an insignificant amount, according to an Environmental Impact Statement on the project that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency approved in 2000.

Since production began at Watts Bar, tritium has been found in groundwater on the site, and higher levels than expected have shown up in the cooling water."It hasn't gone above regulated limits," Johnson said. "The tritium that does not stay in the rods is still within the limits the plant is licensed for."
{more - The Tennessean}


  1. The government continues to pollute at home even as it develops weapons to devastate foreign countries. The reason this continues lay at the feet of the 535 elected members of Congress. It would be different unless they want it to be the way it is.

  2. Hmm is this the same TVA that helped with the Manhattan project? I am shocked that they are part of the M-I-C shocked!