TVA plans to improve safety at nuclear plants

The Tennessee Valley Authority is considering making millions of dollars of improvements to protect its six nuclear reactors from earthquakes and floods, according to the New York Times.

The paper said TVA was considering reducing the amount of fuel in its spent fuel pools by transferring older fuel to passively-cooled dry casks, adding additional backup diesel generators at Sequoyah and Watts Bar and reinforcing pipes that provide cooling water to spent fuel pools. TVA said it will also add satellite telephones and small portable generators at the plants.

Of the six reactors operated by TVA, three are boiling water reactors similar to the ones at the Fukushima Daiichi plant in Japan damaged in an earthquake and tsunami in March. TVA said none of its reactors are in areas where earthquake risks are high. It said it is looking at potential disaster situations such as damage from a tornado or earthquake combined with flooding or a dam failure.

The newspaper said TVA is among the first U.S. reactor operators to announce safety changes since the Japan crisis began in March. Other operators have said publicly they might have to make changes, but have not yet said what those may be.

While TVA discussed nuclear safety plans, the company's board delayed a decision to complete a reactor at the Bellefonte nuclear power plant in Alabama, according to the Chattanooga Times Free Press.

"We continue to view nuclear power as a viable option for the future, but we also think it's a good time to take a pause," board Chairman Dennis Bottorff was quoted as saying in the article.

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