Tuesday, June 18, 2013

The Nuclear Option: Tennessee Valley Authority Looks Ahead

Eighty years ago, the Franklin Roosevelt Administration initiated the Tennessee Valley Authority.  Roosevelt and many of his supporters saw it as a grand experiment in government steered development of tourist attractions and hydroelectric power.  Tens of thousands experienced it as a grand betrayal of property rights and tradition.  In its eighth decade, it may be showing the hand of government energy planning over the next century.

According to a fiscal year 2013 budget proposal released by the TVA, expanding nuclear power capacity has been a goal of the agency since 2010:

While TVA's mission remains essentially unchanged, the business environment in which TVA operates has evolved.
Facing challenging economic conditions, tougher environmental standards, the need to modernize its generating
system and changing customer needs, TVA recognized it must refine its strategic vision.
In August 2010, the TVA Board of Directors adopted a vision that will shape a cleaner and more secure energy future
for the Tennessee Valley, relying more on nuclear power, energy efficiency, and renewable energy, and less on coal-
fired generation.

Does this mean that government's "green energy" proposals are actually a cover for expanding nuclear power use in the United States?  Last month, a nuclear waste storage facility in New Britain, Connecticut was approved by the state to store larger amounts of deadly waste material.  But the facility remains temporary.  Also it lies astride one of the most densely packed population corridors in the world. 

This decision to expand capacity came despite objections from state environmental protection and local officials.

Federal officials have pushed for years to  expand nuclear waste storage at Yucca Mountain in Nevada.  Under voter pressure from that swing state, Obama shut down the proposal.  Nevertheless, over 70,000 tons of nuclear waste sits in temporary storage facilities such as the one in Connecticut. 

So why does the TVA propose, with government approval, to expand nuclear power at the expense of coal (which has never rendered large areas uninhabitable for generations)?  As usual, the problem comes from too much government intervention.

Originally, the TVA was meant to promote hydroelectric power.  Against widespread protest, the federal government seized land from farm families who had worked it for generations.  They only received a pittance for the farms that sustained them through the hardest years of the Great Depression.  Government officials demonized the people as obstructing progress when they demanded that their property rights be respected, creating newsreels to accentuate their differences and minimize national sympathy.

Historian John Alexander Williams remarked that "the TVA made very little help available to them apart from information about land elsewhere" despite extensive study on their plight by social scientists.

And now they seek to expand nuclear power despite the fact that the country has almost no room for the deadly radioactive byproducts.

Ever since the beginning, TVA decisions have been based on the dreams of government bureaucrats and have often ignored real world problems.  From the barbaric removal of farmers and their families to the drive to expand nuclear power, the TVA shows big government at its worst.

It's time to privatize the TVA and get government out of the way of safe energy production.

No comments:

Post a Comment