Friday, November 24, 2006

Pupils Evacuated After Warning at Nuclear Plant

The New York Times reports:

In the first nuclear-related evacuation since the Three Mile Island accident of 1979, a Tennessee school district sent all 1,800 pupils home on Tuesday morning [618: Nov 21] because operators at a nearby nuclear reactor believed they might have had a leak of radioactive cooling water inside the plant.

The Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) operates the Watts Bar nuclear plant, about halfway between Chattanooga and Knoxville. Operators at the plant observed indications of a possible leak and declared an "unusual event", which is the lowest alert level.

Robert W. Greene, superintendent of schools in Meigs County, made the decision to close the schools and send the children home, while the school buses were still on duty (the incident occurred around 6:15 AM and was cancelled at 7:35).

I think Greene made the right decision.

Certainly, it entered into his considerations that the school buses were already available, so there would not be the logistical nightmare of trying to round up transportation once the drivers were off futy for the morning. The Times article also indicated that many parents had heard the alert on police scanners and were understandably concerned. These factors merely made his decision easier.

Granted, the Watts Bar plant is the youngest in the nation (it commenced operations in 1996), and is of a much better design than the TMI plant (and light years ahead of Chernobyl). But given the reckless lack of oversight of corporate America -- particularly the energy sector -- by the current administration, one really cannot blame the superintendent for erring on the side of caution (although given the political climate in Tennessee, I doubt the political aspects entered into it). The man was primarily concerned with the safety of his students, which is the important thing.

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