Friday, August 19, 2011

Bellefonte: “We're excited. It's been a long time coming.”

Bellefonte Nuclear SiteThe suspense and tension are over:

After hearing about 70 speakers support or oppose nuclear power and the completion of the half-finished Bellefonte Nuclear Plant, the TVA board voted unanimously on Thursday to restart construction.

So it wasn’t even a near thing. But that meeting sounds like it was pretty interesting. The local paper, The Scottsboro (Ala.) Daily Sentinel, sent writer Ken Bonner over to take a listen:

"We're very excited to see it," Jackson County Economic Development Authority President and CEO, Goodrich "Dus" Rogers said. "Now we move into a capitalized project rather than one just in the planning stages."

Rogers, and a group of 26 other people from northeast Alabama who attended the meeting were excited with the outcome. The contingent included 22 people from Jackson County including governmental, business and civic leaders, four from Fort Payne and Guntersville Mayor Bob Hembree.

Jackson County is home to Bellefonte and Scottsboro. Surely, Scottsboro doesn’t want it.

“I'm very happy that this project has finally come to fruition," Scottsboro Mayor Melton Potter said.

Oh.

“A 9-0 vote is a pretty bold statement by that board. It shows they are all on the same page and are unified in doing what is best for the entire service region," Potter added.

But it wasn’t  a complete love feast.

"You can say clean and safe, clean and safe and clean and safe and it's never ever going to be the truth," Anna Haislip of Nashville said through tears.

Almost every story I’ve read about this meeting references Ms. Haislip, apparently an area grandmother. My rule of thumb is to let elders talk at length and about whatever they want – while I listen without interruption or critique – but Ms. Haislip is apparently a very effective advocate for her position. Condescension unappreciated.

But Ms. Haislip has the benefit of having no agenda aside from her own, while anti-nuclear advocates are rather intractably wedded – or is that welded – in place. So the comments from area residents were far more interesting - and virtually all in favor of the plant.

"We're excited. It's been a long time coming," Rick Roden, President and CEO of the Greater Jackson County Chamber of Commerce said. "It means great days for all the people of Jackson County. We expect to see a lot of growth as a result of the vote."

Expectations are high. Industrial, retail and commercial prospects have enquired about locating locally. The anticipation is that the area will get spin off businesses to support the TVA project and will experience rapid growth similar to what occurred in Dayton, Tenn. and the surrounding area when the Unit 2 project began at Watts Bar.

I’ve read that Northern Alabama has about 13 percent unemployment, so even though Bellefonte isn’t expected to go online until about 2018 – there will be about 2800 construction jobs in the interim - ancillary business’ are ready to go. We shouldn’t underestimate what an economic bonanza such a large industrial project represents for its community – it’s not crass, it’s just the way of it in a capitalist system.

Bonner does a terrific job capturing the excitement Bellefonte brings to Scottsboro and Jackson County. Worth a read if your in the mood for a very happy nuclear energy story.

Bellefonte.

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