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Alabama nuclear plant outlasts natural disaster

An Alabama-based nuclear power plant with similar specifications to the Fukushima Daiichi plant that was ravaged by an earthquake in Japan outlasted catastrophic weather in the southeast and has shut down without incident.

Diesel engines, the second line of defense in a long line of safety precautions at the Brown’s Ferry plant, were not disabled by the severe weather. The reactors kicked in and provided emergency power to the plant after its main power lines were cut.

Dozens of tornadoes ripped through the midwest and southeast yesterday, killing 248 people and dealing leveling entire neighborhoods. The storms spawned the deadliest outbreak of tornadoes in nearly 40 years, according to the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

The situation at the Browns Ferry plant illustrates the effectiveness of standard nuclear safety features in severe weather. Most nuclear reactors will never face the tragic combination of circumstances that struck Fukushima.

Despite the Fukushima situation, the US government plans to continue funding nuclear power projects as part of a push to promote energy that is cleaner than that produced by fossil-fuel-burning plants. President Barack Obama and U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu have also lobbied hard to bring nuclear power to the forefront as a potential alternative to fossil fuels like coal and natural gas.

[Photo: Argonne National Laboratory]