ATLANTA -- Groups opposed to all nuclear energy used Tuesday’s 25th anniversary of the Chernobyl disaster to demonstrate outside Georgia Power Co. offices in protest of the company’s plans to build two reactors in Waynesboro.
The design of the Soviet reactor that caught fire and spread fallout in Eastern Europe is different from those used in the United States or from what Georgia Power wants to build at Plant Vogtle. The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission is evaluating the new design for Vogtle’s Units 3 and 4. Company officials hope to get NRC’s go-ahead by year end, but the environmental groups protesting Tuesday hope the delay will be longer in order to incorporate lessons from the March accident in Fukushima, Japan.
“It doesn’t matter the design,” said one of the protest organizers, Amanda Hill-Attkisson, managing director, Georgia Women's Action for New Directions.
No design will be safe enough for the protesters, she said, because the danger in an accident could be too great.
“The nuclear reactors have the same risk of mechanical failures, human failures and unknown natural disasters,” she said.
Well, the risk of a tsunami may not be very high in Waynesboro, and earthquake activity in Georgia is relatively mild compared to Japan, even though faults do run through the state, according to Beth Thomas, spokeswoman for Southern Nuclear, a sister company to Georgia Power which operates Plant Vogtle.
“The safety record of our operations at Southern Nuclear is exemplary, and we’ve operated nuclear plants for 31 years,” she said.
Hill-Attkisson raised the question of a breaker that tripped and caused Vogtle’s Unit 1 to shut down last week. Thomas said a component and the breaker were replaced and that the unit is back at 100 percent power production.
But Thomas said the company sees no reason to delay Vogtle’s expansion because of the Fukushima disaster.
“To the extent that we can learn from those events, we intend to do that,” she said.