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Sunday, February 24, 2013

The human side of Nuclear Power Plants.

When people hear the words NUCLEAR ENERGY the first thing that jumps into most of their minds is RADIATION...CHERNOBYL...FUKUSHIMA...RUN... While this is understandable given the gigantic, never ending influx of media attention and the  "we almost lost ________(fill in the blanks)" horror stories that are everywhere now a days, I have seen another side. The human side.
Too often nuclear energy is viewed as some humongous, gigantor soul less conglomerate run by a collection of company drones that blindly march to the dark lords (I've actually been told this) money centric beating of drums. As I said ,I've seen another side.

I have asked other nuclear energy workers to give me some stories that hopefully will illustrate the HUMAN side of electricity generation. Every plant I have visited has its own unique "feel" or attraction that the workers there are proud of. These people are not the CORPORATE NUCLEAR ZOMBIES as they are way too often portrayed. They are a proud ,diverse cross section of your neighbors and friends. Here is a sampling of how they make a huge ,almost faceless nuclear site their home.

During my time at Grand Gulf NPP in Mississippi I was shown the unit 2 spent fuel pool. This is in the unfinished unit and is open to the elements. On my way up the stairs I asked why is this something they were excited to show me. A pool of water? They told me to just wait and see, almost giddy with pride. that this was their claim to fame,so to speak. We come to the giant  concrete pool and one guy tosses a hand full of bread pieces in. I stand there in wonderment as this HUGE fish gobbles them up. NEVER have I seen an entire eco system in a S.F. pool. The next day a family of skunks , yes,skunks is waiting for us at the back of the warehouse. Its feeding time. These people were the most polite,welcoming group I have ever had the pleasure to meet. This is what I see at nuclear plants.
Ginna nuclear in New York is unique. Story has it that the original property owner gave the land to the utility of the time with one stipulation. The plant can't look like the typical nuclear plant. No cooling tower and the reactor biodome is surrounded by a facade that makes the site look like a factory and not a nuclear plant. This is my hometown's reactor and my first time there the employees were dying to show me PIGEON ALLEY. We don protective clothing (I'm thinking reactor entry ) and start up the stairs to the top. The door opens and they usher me through it , I stand there staring in disbelief. We are inside the facade , its a giant maze of stairs and landings but that isn't what I see. There are literally thousands of pigeons everywhere. That's the reason for the protective gear. Pigeon poo.  My reaction obviously pleases my tour guides. They are grinning from ear to ear. There's more they tell me. We work our way down to the screen house where there is an entire wall full of black spiders with signs saying "Protected species DO NOT DISTURB ". I hate spiders so that's no problem, I give them a wide berth. This is what I see at nuclear plants.

Saint lucie nuclear was amazing. The manatees love the warm water outlet and flock there posing for pictures.  The people there couldn't wait to tell me about the loggerhead turtles. The plant sponsors twilight turtle walks during the mating season.  This is what I see.

This is what others see.

Justin Teal says there are fox at browns ferry.

Matt Petersen has seen stray cats and minks,deer,falcons,cranes and huge freaking catfish at peach bottom.

Jeremy Gordon and the vineyards of  Olkilouto.

Gabriel Esteva enjoys the sunsets over lake Michigan at DC Cook.

Joel Riddle says tons of deer at watts bar and croc's at turkey point.

What these people and many others including myself see IS the human side of nuclear energy. So do the approximately 800,000 nuclear workers world wide. All colors, religions, sexual preferences ,political leanings, married, single, short, tall, fat, skinny, beautiful and pug ugly make this industry what it is . All humans doing their best to safely supply the world with electricity while minimizing the impact on their slice of the environment.

Remember this the next time you are told about the evils of nuclear energy. The people who make sure your lights come on when you hit that switch are just people.

Not DRONES or PSYCHOPATHS or ZOMBIES.  Human beings.

Same as you and I .


  1. Kernkraftwerk Muhleberg in Switzerland has a huge window in the control room looking over the Aare river. We would watch the deer come down at sunset to get a drink across the river.

  2. I got to watch the grey whales at Diablo canyon. What a beautiful site.

  3. thanks for share.