Our Nuclear Neighbor
Hazlehurst is a small town in South Georgia, about 3 1/2 hours northeast of Tallahassee.Â It’s halfway between Vidalia and and the aptly named railroad town ofÂ Waycross.Â Back before the age of rail, and long before rubber tired motor vehicles, Hazlehurst was an important stop on the “Tallahassee Trail”, a stagecoach and wagon road between Savannah and Tallahassee.Â The stagecoach era ended when the railroad reached the south in the mid 1800′s.Â The rail line pretty much parallels the old Tallahassee Road and continued to be a passenger stop on the way north from Tallahassee until the 1960′s.
That’s about the same time that Georgia Power decided to site a nuclearÂ plant on the banks of the Altamaha River, about 15 miles northeast of the Hazlehurst.Â The Edwin I. Hatch plant started operation in 1974.Â In 1978, a second reactor (Unit II) went into operation.
The Hatch plant is Tallahassee’s nuclear buddy; even closer than the Crystal River plant (that nuclear plant is currently shut down because of problems).
The nuclear reactor at the Hatch plant is a General Electric Type 4, boiling water Mark 1 reactor.Â The reactors at the damaged Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant in Japan are similar but not identical units.Â The Hatch plant is ownedÂ jointly by Georgia Power, the Oglethorpe Power Corporation , the Municipal Electrical Authority of Georgia and Dalton Utilities and operated by the Southern Company.
The Hatch Plant seems to have a reasonable safety record.Â The latest safety violation at Hatch was cited by the NRC in May of 2010 when an emergency generator (can you say “Fukashima”?) was found to be inoperable; the result of a failure in a component that hadn’t been properly maintained.Â The NRC considered this to be a minor issue.
Perhaps the most troubling aspect of the Hatch plant is the spent nuclear fuel stored on-site.Â In 2001, the company running the Hatch reactors reported to the NRC that they had 7 bundles of spent fuel rods stored on site.Â At that time, they were reporting the addition of two new bundles, each holding 68 rods.Â In a 2004 report to Congress from the Congressional Research Service, it was reported that over 900 metric tons of spent fuel was stored at the Hatch plant.Â This is much more (by 8 times) the amount of similar fuel stored at and released from the Cheryobyl plant in the Ukraine.
In 2002, Plant Hatch’s Operating license was extended by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission for an additional 20 years. If an “incident” occurs at Hatch, the NRC emergency plan specifies two planning zones; a 10 mile “plume” zone, and a 50 “ingestion” zone.Â Â Tallahassee is about 150 miles (as the glowing crow flies) from Tallahassee.
The Hatch plant was named after Edwin Hatch (1913â€“1997) , a former president of Georgia Power.
- The Hatch Plant official site.
- MSNBC article on GE Open Water Reactors.
- Union of Concerned Scientists paper on the security of spent fuel storage.
- Wikipedia article on the Hatch Plant.