TVA says reactors designed to handle big earthquakes

The nuclear reactor that exploded in Japan on Saturday is similar in design to TVA's oldest nuclear power plant at Browns Ferry in Alabama.

In fact, the Fukushima Daiichi plant was designed to withstand a stronger earthquake than Browns Ferry, which like the damaged Japanese plant is a General Electric Mark 1 boiling-water reactor.

"It's hard to believe in the wake of this accident that nuclear power is safe, reliable or cheap," said Sandy Kurtz, a Chattanooga anti-nuclear activist who is part of a group fighting TVA plans to build another nuclear plant in Hollywood, Ala.

The Fukushima plant was struck by an 8.9-magnitude earthquake far greater than any that has ever hit a nuclear power plant. But the quake and the wall of water that flooded and cut off power sources to the plant appear to have combined to lead to problems cooling the reactor core.