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published Thursday, April 28th, 2011

TVA loses all power transmission lines in Alabama and Mississippi, Browns Ferry Nuclear plant forced into emergency shutdown

TVA's Browns Ferry Nuclear Plant is located near near Athens, Ala.
(AP Photo/Jay Reeves)
TVA's Browns Ferry Nuclear Plant is located near near Athens, Ala. (AP Photo/Jay Reeves)

Wednesday’s storms took out all of TVA’s electric power transmission lines in Mississippi and North Alabama, and forced Browns Ferry Nuclear Plant unto diesel backup power and into emergency and automatic cold shutdown.

Bill McCollum, the chief operating officer of Tennessee Valley Authority, said it may be weeks before power can be restored to all of the 300,000 customers whose power is supplied by the federal utility.

“With the level of damage we have, it will be — we hope it will be days until we get most of the customers back on, but it will be weeks before we’ve fully repaired all of the damage,” he said.

McCollum said the reactors, now being cooled by backup diesel power, are safe.

He said the spent fuel pools also are being cooled by backup diesel power and are safe.

The transmission lines are the monster power lines that carry electricity from TVA power plants to power distributors such as EPB and Huntsville Utilities.

Now those utilities, along with a number of large industries that are wired directly to TVA transmission lines, will not have power until the lines are repaired, McCollum said.

The loss of those transmission lines also caused Browns Ferry Nuclear Plant to lose power.

When the plant generates power, it uses some of that power and the excess is sent out on the transmission lines. When those transmission lines can’t take power, it causes the reactors to trip, according to TVA officials.

Contact Pam Sohn at or 423-757-6346.

about Pam Sohn...

Pam Sohn has been reporting or editing Chattanooga news for 25 years. A Walden’s Ridge native, she began her journalism career with a 10-year stint at the Anniston (Ala.) Star. She came to the Chattanooga Times Free Press in 1999 after working at the Chattanooga Times for 14 years. She has been a city editor, Sunday editor, wire editor, projects team leader and assistant lifestyle editor. As a reporter, she also has covered the police, ...

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sdflippo said...

The tornado hit the switchyard which automatically shuts down the plant; then back up deisel generators start up. It's all automatic; not forced.

April 28, 2011 at 4:51 p.m.

The possible death knell of the Tennessee Valley Authority as we know it came suddenly with little warning but even ample warning could not prevent the catastrophic destruction of thousands of homes and business throughout out TVA’s 80,000 square mile territory. Many hundreds have been killed.

From Mississippi to Virginia death and destruction spared hardly any community in the vicious path of hundreds of tornados. Most of the major transmission lines of the TVA were down and while no official estimates of the costs to repair and replace destroyed lines and transformers is available, it is clearly apparent that it will take billions of dollars to restore power to its previous level in TVA’s huge territory.

There is no way possible for ratepayers to pay for all of the destruction and yet, because of TVA’s financial structure the burden rests on them. In the past few days before the storm, billions of dollars of TVA’s penalties were dumped in the laps of ratepayers.

While those billions cannot not be borne by ratepayers these storm damages are unimaginably impossible for ratepayers to absorb.

Now is the time for all seven governors in TVA’s territory to require that the TVA tear down their 2500 mile fence that prevents citizens inside that fence from getting electrical power from any source that is available. To have millions wait on TVA to bring on line all of its severely damaged power lines and buildings before relief is available would be unconscionable.

Ernest Norsworthy

April 28, 2011 at 6:38 p.m.
davelv said...


I don't understand your comment. Why should anyone outside of the TVA service area pay for any of the repairs? This is how Americans live - in distinct areas of fiscal responsibility such as cities, counties, states, etc etc. Do you expect citizens in California to pay? It sounds like you don't like the rate structure of TVA which could be legitimate, but don't confuse the damage issue with service area.

April 28, 2011 at 10:17 p.m.
WorkHard said...


You are sadly misinformed. TVA does use power from outside the area. We enjoy some of the lowest rates in the country so why would we want to bring in others so we could raise it? You seem to beating your own drum, I guess you are going to write a book. Your web site is nothing more than self serving dribble. So where do they land the black helicopters? While catastrophic damage is expensive the costs for such things are built into budgets. Do you think no one plans for tornados? I was inside a TVA nuclear plant during the storm and the everyone and everything was safe. The plant operations people worked through their plans and we came out the otherside with no damage to the units. TVA has not nor will it ask for money from the Federal government to repair the damage. So are you inside the "2500 mile fence" as you call it or somewhere else? You spend so much time trashing TVA tell us just where are you from?

April 28, 2011 at 11:30 p.m.
holdout said...

This incident answers a lot of questions that were being asked right after the disaster in Japan.

April 29, 2011 at 8:33 a.m.
pjlindsey said...

As explained to me, a "Generator Load Rejection" is where a sudden unloading of the generator causes an automatic reactor shutdown in order to protect the equipment, and also happens with large conventional power plants. Newer designs don't have this problem:

April 29, 2011 at 11:47 a.m.
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