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Oklahoma Memories

Black Fox is Dead

2012-03-03

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"I will be surprised if the Public Service Company and their co-owners do not decide to cancel this project. That's my personal opinion."

That's the voice of a spokesman for Public Service Company of Oklahoma, the Tulsa-based electric utility that proposed building a nuclear power plant in the Sooner State.

From the Oklahoma History Center, this is Oklahoma Memories. I'm Michael Dean.

One year ago this week an earthquake and tsunami devastated the coast of Japan and crippled a nuclear power plant at Fukushima, Japan. A year later, that nuclear power plant is still in the news. On this episode of Oklahoma Memories we go back to 1973 and learn just how close Oklahoma came to having a nuclear power plant in our state that would have used the same reactors that suffered catastrophic damage at Fukushima.

In May 1973, Tulsa-based Public Service Company of Oklahoma proposed building the state's first nuclear power plant near Inola, just east of Tulsa. They proposed using two General Electric Boiling water reactors. The first part of construction was approved, land was cleared, and the foundation for the plant was poured. At the same time, Carrie Dickerson organized the group Citizens Action for Safe Energy which began leading protests against the plant. The protests lead to nine years of hearings being held on the project. Finally in 1982, PSO went before the Corporation Commission to cancel the project. A company spokesman told reporters...

"I'm not too anxious to speculate about what Public Service Company might do. Public Service Company has two co-owners, as I mentioned earlier, that have an interest in this project, and they have an investment that they need to protect in addition to the Public Service Company's investment. I will be surprised if the Public Service Company and their co-owners do not decide to cancel this project. That's my personal opinion."

Another group, the Sunbelt Alliance, joined the protests. A spokesman for the group told Oklahoma City's News Channel Four of the group's reaction to PSO's decision.

"Sunbelt Alliance is obviously really happy that Public Service of Oklahoma has said that indeed Black Fox is going to collapse of its own economic weight. That's about what we've been saying all along, is it's going to collapse of its own economic weight. However, we knew - we're folks, look around, you see carpenters, you see pipefitters, you see plumbers, you see teachers, you even see some future lawyers. All we wanted to do was to be carpenters and teachers and child care workers and social workers. That's all we wanted to do. Our major goal, our major purpose, was to be able to go back home. Tonight we've accomplished our major goal and our major purpose. Black Fox is stopped, it's collapsed of its own economic weight, and we're done. The Sunbelt Alliance, as of this moment, is over."

According to the group SANE, the Black Fox plant was the only nuclear power plant in the United States to be canceled by a combination of legal and citizen action after construction had begun. The project began in 1973 and continued until its cancellation nine years later.

After the protest, Dickerson founded the Carrie Dickerson Foundation, a nonprofit group designed to educate people about all aspects of nuclear energy. Dickerson died in 2006.

PSO proposed using two General Electric boiling water reactors. They were designed in the late 1960s and would have been installed in Inola at about the same time the Fukushima power plant was being built in Japan in which 5 of the 6 reactors there were GE boiling water reactors.

You can learn more about the Black Fox project through the newspaper archives in the research library at the Oklahoma History Center in Oklahoma City on NE 23rd Street, just east of the state capitol. Oklahoma Memories is a production of the Oklahoma History Center, dedicated to collecting, preserving, and sharing our state's past. I'm Michael Dean.