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In Southeast, Extreme Heat Is a Growing Concern for Nuclear Power Operators

Last summer, a heat wave forced a TVA nuclear plant to run at 50% capacity for eight weeks, costing ratepayers $50 million, an investigation finds

By Alyson Kenward,

Apr 14, 2011

On July 8, 2010, as the temperature in downtown Decatur, Alabama, climbed to a sweltering 98 degrees Fahrenheit, operators at the Browns Ferry nuclear power plant a few miles outside of town realized they had only one option to avoid violating their environmental permit: turn down the reactors.

For days, the (TVA), which owns the nuclear plant, had kept a watchful eye on the rising mercury, knowing that more heat outside could spell trouble inside the facility. When the Tennessee River, whose adjacent waters are used to cool the reactors, finally hit 90 degrees Fahrenheit and forced Browns Ferry to run at only half of its regular power output, the TVA hoped the hot spell would last just a few days.

Eight weeks of unrelenting heat later, the plant was still running at half its capacity, robbing the grid of power it desperately needed when electricity demand from air conditions and fans was at its peak.

The total cost of the lost power over that time? More than $50 million, all of which was paid for by TVA's customers in Tennessee. 

"Last summer, the water in the Tennessee River warmed up early and stayed warm," says TVA spokesman Ray Golden. "When it got hot again in July and August, we were impacted by that and had to reduce power at the plant and get it from somewhere else."

With river water so warm, the nuclear plant couldn't draw in as much water as usual to cool the facility's three reactors, or else the water it pumped back into the river could be hot enough to harm the local ecosystem, says Golden.

But for every day that the Browns Ferry plant ran at 50 percent of its maximum output, the TVA had to spend $1 million more than usual to purchase power from somewhere else, he says.

No Threat of Meltdown, But Hefty Fines

What happened in northern Alabama last summer, at the largest of TVA's nuclear power plants, did not present a human safety concern. Operators knew there was never a risk of an explosion or nuclear meltdown, nor was there a threat of leaking radioactive material.

But the prolonged spell of hot weather put the TVA at risk of violating environmental permits, with hefty fines as one consequence and potential harm to the Tennessee River ecosystem as another.

It's not the first time high temperatures have affected the performance of the Browns Ferry plant, and extreme heat is a growing concern for power plant operators across the Southeast. While some nuclear plants can improve their cooling procedures to cope with the intake of warmer water, the upgrades can cost hundreds of millions of dollars and still don't offer an indefinite defense against extreme heat.

Because scientists say the Southeast (like many other parts of the world) can expect to see by the end of this century, the problems for nuclear power and the people that rely on it for electricity may only be beginning.

Extreme Heat Limits Nuclear Energy Production

The disaster still unfolding at Japan's Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant has refocused America's attention on nuclear power, calling into question its future role in the country's energy portfolio.

Many advocates of nuclear power say that we need to maintain — and even expand — nuclear power to get away from using fossil fuels such as coal, and to help lower greenhouse gas emissions.

But nuclear power has a paradoxical relationship with climate change. Even though it might help mitigate long-term global warming, nuclear power is already being challenged by rising temperatures and the increasing number of heat waves around the world. Throughout the last decade, several plants have had to reduce electricity production during heat waves, just when electricity demand typically reaches peak levels.

Meme Mine is a dishonest concern troll

Notice that he has not responded to the serious charges above, just another repost of the same claims he makes over and over across the Internet. He is not in any way a trutworthy source for information.

Please go to to learn why scientists consider global warming a threat.

Meme Mine is a troll

Meme Mine is a troll that posts the same set of messages over and over and over again across the Internet on any forum that discusses climate change. He has been caught posting on the same site using multiple personalities (sock puppetry) to dishonestly boost his message. He rarely responds to the topic of the article he posts on or responds to anyone who addresses his claims. He never backs any of his claims with science. I don't know whether he is being paid to make his anti-science posts or if he is just that obsessive, but he is not to be trusted.

Links to a few of his repeated posts:

(If the link above does not work, just Google "How ironic is that, considering we bowed like fools to our Gods of science for 25 years of unstoppable warming" ).

Links to when he was caught using multiple accounts to comment on the same thread:

See comments 2 (Meme Mine), 3 (Al Bore), 14 (Dizzy May), 18 (Jack FrostBurrrrr!), and 21 (Rachel Carson).

Then see comment 22 where the site host points out that all of the above are sock puppets and bans him(site hosts have access to poster IPs, so they can tell if a single person is posting using different names) :

"In case you hadn't noticed, Meme Mine, Al Bore, Dizzy May, Mother Nature, Rachel Carson, and Jack FrostBurrr! are all sockpuppets.

Sockpuppetry is one of the only bannable offenses here. Bye, bye, Meme Mine.

Posted by: Orac | June 28, 2010 11:58 AM"

In comment 24, Meme Mine comes back and pretends not to know what sock puppetry is or that there is anything wrong with it, pretending that he is being banned for "an opposing view" rather than forbehaving in a deceptive manner:

"Sockpocket, never heard of it till now. You must be one to know one maybe?

I'll leave you now and I'm sorry for posting an opposing view.
Oh, and stop scaring my kids, please?

Posted by: Meme Mine | June 28, 2010 12:04 PM"

This is not the posting of an honorable person. Again, based upon his behavior, I would not trust a single word that he has to say.

Another example of sock puppetry from Meme Mine. Here, he is posting as mememine69 and Jum Bay, as well as Neil Craig (or he is using Craig's posts without giving credit elsewhere).

Nothing Meme Mine has to say is to be trusted.

If you want to see some real science on global warming, please visit .

Obama is now a former believer. Climate Change is DEAD!


Climate change was wrong, a mistake, an exaggeration and criminal fear mongering from media and politicians and will never, EVER be taken seriously again outside of pointless academic politics and mainSCREAM media.

1-Obama didn’t even mention this so called climate change "CRISIS' in his 2011 state of the union address to the nation.

2-The Senate has cut all American funding to the IPCC.

Do the math!

And don’t forget that scientists also produced cruise missiles, cancer causing chemicals, land mine technology, nuclear weapons, germ warfare, cluster bombs, strip mining technology, Y2K, Y2Kyoto, deep sea drilling technology and now climate control. Scientists made environmental protection necessary in the first place when they supposedly polluted the planet with their chemicals and cancer causing pesticides. How ironic is that, considering we bowed like fools to our Gods of science for 25 years of “unstoppable warming”.

REAL planet lovers don't hold scientists as Gods and bow to politicians promising to make the weather colder with taxes and scare kids with such doomsday glee.

  Notice that he has not


Notice that he has not responded to the serious charges above, just another repost of the same claims he makes over and over across the Internet. He is not in any way a trutworthy source for information.

Obama is not a former believer. He is a very practical politician and knows that he is not going to get anything cllimate related through the House with Republicans in the majority.

Science is about understanding how things work, it is not the fault of scientists that knowledge can be used for destructive as well as constructive things. The fact that you claim not to like the purposes to which scientific discoveries have been used (not that I trust a word that you type based upon your dishonest practices) has no bearing on the validity of science.
If you are so concerned about all those liberal issues that you list above, then why do you spent enormous amounts of time reposting these anti global warming screeds instead of addressing those issues that you are supposedly so concerned about? (Not that I believe a word that you type.)

Please go to to learn why scientists consider global warming a threat. It is not a mistake as the troll asserts.



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