The Zion Plant could be operated safely

April 30, 2011


 As a Lake Bluff resident who can view The Zion Nuclear Power Plant from Lake Bluff’s Sunrise Beach and who has been engaged in a continuing effort to rally others to assist in a mission to refurbish and reopen Zion, I read with interest contributor Ed Collins’ report in the Lake Forester on April 14 entitled ” Garrett leads update at Zion nuclear site.”

I attended State Sen. Susan Garrett’s forum with a heavy heart and overwhelming sadness to learn first-hand of the activities now taking place at Zion since ZionSolutions was officially awarded the contract from Exelon Corporation in September of last year to decommission (destroy) Zion.

Let me remind readers that The Zion Station consists of two modern, environmentally clean, and safe nuclear power plants; that they are located on seismically approved ground; and that they were prematurely shut down in 1998 and put in “safestore.”

With proper routine maintenance and upgrades, as happens to all machinery, both plants could safely be operated for a hundred years or more.

Disconcerting is that Exelon Corporation never explained why its dual Zion Nuclear Plant was unnecessarily and prematurely closed down and placed in safes-store in 1998 way before their time, when the two plants, while operating, neither spewed radioactive particles into the air, nor leaked radioactive particles into Lake Michigan.

As Ed Rollins reported in his “Lake Forester” article, many of the questions directed to Patrick Daly, manager of ZionSolutions, centered around the safety of the spent nuclear fuel rods now in a cooling pool (2,226 in all), and the nature and safety of the 61 vertical concrete, reinforced air-tight containers filled with inert gas into which the rods will be placed in their transfer from wet to dry storage. Rollins related that when the transfer is completed, the 61 casks will rest on a pad at the south end of the Switch Yard, which will not be demolished, 1,300 feet from Lake Michigan on one-half acre of land, a distance further from the lake than the present cooling pond holding the spent rods.

Most of those in attendance seemed be accept the responses given by presenter Patrick Daly of ZionSolutions as to the handling of high level radioactive material during the decommissioning process; that is, with the exception of one individual whose questions reflected his obvious dislike of nuclear energy as a power source.

This individual asked a series of questions based on virtually impossible “what if” scenarios such as terrorists breaching the air space to target Zion with a large amount of high explosives.

To those readers who find the above scenario plausible, may I remind them that this nation does a pretty good job of protecting our seemingly vulnerable assets, the likes of which are found in virtually every state in the nation. These vulnerable assets can’t all be moved “someplace else”, so they’re not close to us. Most of them are close to somebody.

Because of the recent March incident at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear complex in Japan, discussed also was whether what happened in Japan could ever occur at Zion. It is unfortunate that excessive fear-mongering over the safety of nuclear energy has been making its rounds since the Japan incident, causing many Americans to become skeptical of nuclear energy as a power source.

It must be remembered that it was the March earthquake and tsunami in Japan that destabilized the reactors and caused radiation leaks after the backup reactor electric suppliers were destroyed.

At Zion the spent rods in the cooling pool are covered with 26 feet over water, and they can withstand a tornado up to 360 miles per hour and missiles up to 4,000 pound. Furthermore, Lake Michigan has never had a seisch (a wave) of more than 20 feet high.

Students at Lake Forest High School should be taught these facts:

1. One Uranium Fuel Pellet, without being reprocessed and recycled, generates about as much energy as three barrels of oil (41 gallons) each, two tons of coal, or 17,000 cubic feet of natural gas.

2. Uranium-fueled electrical generating plants produce abundant, cheap, clean and safe energy.

3. About 20 percent of electricity in the U.S. comes from uranium fuel.

4. We depend on electricity to manufacture goods and provide services that assure safety, healthy living and conveniences in modern life.

When will our legislators here in Illinois, including State Sen. Garrett and State Rep. Karen May, and those at the federal level wise up? The Zion Station even now could be and should be refurbished and restarted, but time is running out.

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