Comanche Peak Nuclear Generating Station | Columnists

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BRIDGE STREET HISTORY CENTER

Bill Walters is an RN BSN, currently working with a software company for 18 years. Born and raised in Hood County, he was in the class of 1973, graduating from the old Bridge Street High School. He was also a founding member of the first ambulance service associated with the old Hood General Hospital located just off the square.

PART 1

On June 5, 1973, the application to build the Comanche Peak Steam Election Station (Nuclear Plant) was submitted. It was three tons of paper representing all types of studies and information relating to the plant, development, safety, economic impact and other factors.

That same year, in July, public hearings were held on the $779 million plant project located 14 miles southwest of Granbury.

The Texas Power and Light Company-owned plant was announced to supply electricity to customers in Dallas, Fort Worth, Arlington, Grand Prairie, Garland, Irving, Plano, Richardson, Mesquite, Tyler, Waco, Wichita Falls, Odessa and Midland.

Several hundred construction workers were needed to build the plant and the adjoining 3,200-acre lake used as cooling water for the plant. It was formed by building a dam across Squaw Creek. Over the seven-year construction period, an average of 800–1,000 workers were employed, peaking at around 1,400–1,500 over a 16–18 month period.

In October 1974, Brown and Root Construction Company began moving earth to the site. In August 1975, the cost of the project was revised to $987 million due to design changes and inflation.

Construction crews worked two 10-hour shifts a day, six days a week. On May 14, 1975, workers reported finding dinosaur tracks in the reactor cavity of Unit #1, 80 feet below the surface. It was determined that the tracks were not unique and therefore construction could proceed. Texas Utilities used a rock saw to remove five of the more distinct tracks weighing up to 4.5 tons. The tracks were displayed at the Somervell County Museum.

In January 1976, plant officials reported the project 12% complete, and by July 1976, the Squaw Creek Reservoir was nearing completion. Its main function is the cooling water of the nuclear power plant. Lake Granbury played a major role in the development of the reservoir. Much of the water to fill the reservoir came from Lake Granbury. A pipeline of nearly nine football fields connects Lake Granbury to the Squaw Creek Reservoir.

The reservoir holds 151,000 acre-feet of water. In comparison, Lake Granbury has 155,000 acre-feet of water. One of the reasons the reservoir is nearly as large as Lake Granbury is that its average depth is greater than that of Lake Granbury. At Squaw Creek Dam, the water depth is about 130 feet. Lake Granbury is only 73 feet deep at the dam.

In November 1976, Brown and Root, Inc. security personnel posted openings for guards and supervisors. The starting salary was $5.25 an hour.

In February 1976, workers finished pouring cement for the base of the plant’s first unit containment building. It contained over 6,600 cubic yards of cement and over 4 million pounds of steel reinforcement. In total, the first unit contains over 11,000 cubic yards of cement. All the cement was mixed at the plant and it took 16 trucks to complete the pour. The base is 12 feet thick and the walls are 4.5 feet thick and 265 feet high.

In June 1977, a 347 ton reactor arrived at the plant site. It took two years of construction and a month’s journey to get to the site by barge from Chattanooga to Houston, and by special wagon from Houston to Midlothian.

Around June 1977, a revised construction cost came out, showing an estimated cost increase of $1.7 billion. And in February, pumps began filling the Squaw Creek Reservoir.

Bomb threat charges were filed in 1978 against a former employee of Brown and Root. Later that year, project management reported that construction was on schedule and that some 4,000 employees were working an average of 50 hours per week and 20,000 man-hours per week.

Not everyone was in favor of the nuclear power plant. On June 14, 1979, a hundred demonstrators occupied the factory. The protest ended with law enforcement officers transporting the protesters to buses. Trespassing charges were filed against each protester. There has been a lot of discussion in the public about plant safety.

To be continued.


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