Brownville residents not worried about nuke station
June 30th, 2011
Omaha, NE – Nebraska’s two nuclear power stations have made front page news around the country this week. With high-profile visits by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the stations have been questioned on their safety and preparedness, as the Missouri River continues to rise around them. But in the surrounding communities of the nuke stations, the residents there are not that worried.
As construction continues around Cooper Nuclear Station, workers are building heavy, earthen berms and makeshift walls to hold back the Missouri waters.
“I think they’re capable of handling it,” Davis said. “They’ve got a good crew in there down there working now.”
Jay Tomlin is another Brownville resident. He’s been there for four years, and also serves as a representative for the village, acting as Cooper’s point person: getting updates and information to the town.
“They’re forthright with updates and letting us know what’s going on, exactly what’s going on,” Tomlin said. “They keep us pretty well-informed.”
Cooper employs about 750 people in the surrounding area. Up north, Nebraska’s second nuclear station, Fort Calhoun employs about 2,300. The energy generated at both stations forms 25-30 percent of the total energy produced for Nebraska. But Tyson Slocum, who heads Public Citizen’s Energy Program in Washington, D.C. said a failing nuclear plant has more consequences than the immediate area.
“The problematic footprint of nuclear power plants is huge,” Slocum said. “So we can’t just take into account what the immediate community feels. This affects a very large geographic area, so we’ve got to prioritize public safety and public health.”
Slocum said he doesn’t feel assured with pronouncements from officials that the two plants are safe and secure. And he criticizes the industry for a cozy relationship with regulators.
“When a facility’s under the kind of stress conditions that are presented by the extreme flooding in the region, it really starts to raise questions about whether or not nuclear power should be a viable fuel source in our 21st century energy mix,” Slocum said.
Back in Brownville, Tomlin said he worked with nuclear submarines during his enlistment in the armed forces in the late 70s. So he understands the danger.
“Did I think about it then, back of my mind? Sure, absolutely,” he said. “And it’s the same thing now. It’s sitting down there, it has the potential of it. But the benefits of what it does for us probably outweigh some of those personal concerns.”
Harold Davis agreed. Cooper is vital to the economy of Brownville, he said, as a small tourist town of just 140 people. “If you want any business, or if you want the area to take and continue on, you better support what’s working for you.”