National Lampoon's Nuclear Family Vacation

Campsite on Lake Keowee

I'm writing this afternoon from the shore of Lake Keowee, an incredibly beautiful man-made lake in South Carolina.

Also on the water's edge: Oconee Nuclear Station, a massive three-reactor nuclear plant that needed the 18,500-acre lake as a source of cooling water. I haven't figured out yet whether I'm downwind.

I spent some time yesterday in a ginormous lakefront home, one of many I've seen here that appears newly built. The area -- not far from Clemson University -- contains some of the most expensive real estate in the state, which makes me wonder whether catastrophic nuclear disaster that renders the region uninhabitable for decades is one of the risks a realtor is expected to disclose. The plant went online in the early '70s with the same reactors as Three Mile Island. The lake flows atop a historic British fort and sacred Cherokee sites and was originally promoted by community leaders under the slogan "Oconee: Arrowheads to Atoms."

The people who live here "have developed an easy peace with the plant," according to one media account:

"We realize that it's here, and we know that there's always potential risk, but we also ride Harleys and there's a risk involved in that," said Kenneth Klein, 58, who moved to Lake Keowee in 2003 from Ohio.

Velvet Turman shares her sunset views on Lake Keowee with a sidedoor shot of the Oconee Nuclear Station.

Since moving to the lake four years ago, she says she's made peace with the plant knowing she is downwind and out of luck if something were to happen.

"It's in the back of my mind," said Turman. "You have a plan in your mind of what you're going to do if something happens, but you just cannot live that way. You just look at the lake -- it's beautiful -- and just go on."

I don't ride Harleys, but as I sit here and weigh the picturesque natural setting against the risk we might need to flee in terror at a moment's notice to avoid certain doom, I'm tempted to think it's a fair trade.


Being near a nuclear site is less dangerous than being around a coal-fired plant for your health. I'm more distressed that someone would actually pitch a tent on a concrete pad and call it camping. Do they provide electrical outlets?

I spent some time in that same area several years ago.

Wasn't Deliverance filmed not far from there? All I know is that I had a helluva time finding the place and didn't want to stop for directions because I figured I'd hear, "That one there's got a 'purdy' mouth."

Gee.. liberals don't want us to use mideastern oil, say it's too risky to our health to use coal, forbid us to drill in the Anwar, scream like Hillary having her legs waxed whenever someone suggests windmill power in their back yard, etc, etc, etc. LOL! It's funny how Republican leaders are damned by you libs for being tied in with oil, but then you look away whenever any mention is made of Clinton, gore, etc, and their ties with oil. Hey, I'm all for going to some alternative fuel source. Another thing I'm all for is people driving more fuel efficient vehicles instead of gas-guzzling suvs that drive the demand -and therefore the prices- for fuel up, up, up. If your vehicle only gets 20 mpg, you can't bitch about the price of gasoline: you're the major cause of the gouging that you're giving yourself (and me).

Nice rant, adcox, but totally off-topic.

The topic of the day is owning property near Nuclear Power Plants. Our Three-Mile-Island didn't make a large region glow like the Soviets' Chernobyl, which speaks well for American nuke plant management (which is, unfortunately, faint praise considering the Soviets' historical disregard for human life).

There is the possibility of "catastrophic failure" in any system. In an oil-burning power plant, the most you can destroy is the plant and a hundred yards around it. With a nuclear plant, you can ruin a couple hundred MILES around it. That's why safety has to be of overwhelming importance there (and a real life Homer Simpson will NEVER get a job at one). That said, the chance of catostrophic failure can NEVER be made ZERO. Every day, there's a tiny chance of enough failsafes failing to have a catastrophe, and the daily chance rises ever-so-slightly the older the equipment is (like your car). Seen over a long period of time among all the nuke plants now operating, it's fairly likely (but NOT inevitable) that one will someday have an accident as bad as Chernobyl. Probably not today, probably not the one you pitched you tent next to, but you never know.

That said, I myself recently knowingly took up full-time residence about 6 miles due east of the Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant near San Luis Obispo, CA. I can see a warning siren from my window. Because of hills between here and there, the winds do not blow due east. And I am a few yards from Highway 101, the main escape route from the area. And my most important data is stored either online or in a laptop I'll grab as I run. Oh, and I'm RENTING.

Why would people pay top dollar for property that might... MIGHT... someday become a radioactive wasteland? Shouldn't there be a "discount" for that possibility? Shouldn't there also be a discounted price for space in the buildings most likely to be terorist targets? And shouldn't there be a BIG discount on beach-front property that, now with Global Warming a sure thing, will be under a rising sea level in somewhere between 40 and 200 years?

It seems that, as "permanent" as Real Estate is supposed to be, there is no more real long-term valuation there than with any other investment. Even among the very few of us who are buying a home "to live in the rest of our lives". A common foolishness that hasn't come back to punish most of us... yet.

You're always downwind of OMG-Radiation!

No criticism of the post either express or implied. I just like to type OMG-Radiation!

Don: Not only are there outlets, both of my neighbors brought satellite dishes.

"Getting away from it all" shouldn't include a total avoidance of natural ground cover - or being concerned about whether your within hailing distance of a fallout shelter.

I suggest for your next family outing Rogers, perhaps something where you're a few kilometers from the nearest paved surface; cell phones might work, but only if you get far enough out into nature and on the top of a hill; and bear scat is just something not to step in - but interesting never the less to see what's been on the menu, besides you.

Glad your vacation is going cool. Our new blog is pretty cool. We have some of your posters posting on our threads now. We decided to be civil and can you believe it people seem to like real debate over ranting. anyways though maybe you can check our blog out and give a few pointers. Were hoping to get a real host soon. Im studying up my html. I do recall once you said you would be glad to offer some knowledge. Hope that bridge hasn't burnt. Drop in every once in awhile. We got a whole new amnesty thing happening.

"Getting away from it all" shouldn't include a total avoidance of natural ground cover ...

I think we might have picked a section designed for the RV crowd by mistake. My tent's not on any concrete, but it's a smoothed-over pile of rocks.

Wasn't Deliverance filmed not far from there?

I heard "Dueling Banjos" last night from another camp. We zipped up our rain fly and pretended to be asleep.

Did you bring a fishing pole? If you catch any fish, I wouldn't eat them if they glow in the dark.

People tend to 'discount' the dangers of things they can't see, hear, or feel, like radiation. Of course, any radiation in the plant is contained always, we hope. I'm staying at a place on the beach about 12 miles from a nuclear plant, and I simply never think about it (till you had to remind me of it). I imagine most people around here seldom think about it, unless they live within sight of it, or have to drive past it.

Andrew Weil was talking about how shoe stores used to have fluoroscopes for customers to stand on and see the bone structure of their feet. He said that when he was a kid, he and his friends would jump on and off the thing dozens of times, for fun, unaware they were getting a little dose of radiation each time they did it.

Sheesh, can we knock off the right-wing nut left-wing crackpot name-calling and backbiting for a second? When was the last time we had LEADERSHIP regarding ENRGY POLICY? Although I may be straying into the dread "off-topic" zone, it's related - whether you're buying a multi-million dollar house near a fallout zone, or having to take a bus 50 miles to see Yosemite because of all of the pollution (it'll happen sooner rather than later)
The internal combustion engine is over 100 years old, and all you can gripe about is getting 20 MPG?? How about something that actually WORKS?? I would much prefer driving a fuel cell vehicle and telling the Arabs to drink oil for a living.

I was born 6 miles from the nuclear power plant in Clinton, IL. I believe my body has been damaged more by the thousands of tons of contaminated topsoil in the local rivers and streams. It is the little daily doses of toxic chemicals that are killing us, arsenic, flouride, chlorine, hydrogentated oils, aspartame, sucralose, anhydrous ammonia, pesticides, etc, rather than nuclear reactors. However, the potential for devastation and the human imagination gives nuke plants more power to paralyze us with fear.

Electrical outlets, satellite that's my idea of camping!

No, it's only true camping if you hate every second of miserable discomfort and privation. Even the use of a tent is forbidden, and one must eat only lichens and snails.

Radiation ain't so bad. Didn't they used to get sick people to crawl down old mines that had radon in them in hopes of curing them? Oops, they still do.

Do you think that if Rogers stays out there long enough, he'll be able to pronounce nucular correctly?

Yeah, the way George W. pronounces it, now. He didn't pronounce it that way in 1988. In fairness, Jimmy Carter pronounced it that way, too, but he always did.

Actually, I'm not sure George W. knew the word nuclear before 1988.

Welcome to America, where "roughing it" means going without MTV and your jacuzzi...and of course there are electrical outlets, powered by that nice big reactor across the way

Insert Irish camping joke here

Into a glen on that fair green isle, I took my darlin' for a nip o' the morn. We lay on the grass so green, and I showed her my shillelagh.

She looked, and said, "My Lord, it's a' glowin."

I kissed her proud, and told her, "Yes, my dear, and it's still a'growin."

The lake has flooded sites that Native American Indians hold sacred, but truly, they regard the 'land' itself as sacred, not just certain holy sites.

There may be acceptable trade-offs in the creation of energy plants, but that slogan--"Oconee: Arrowheads to Atoms", was 'antediluvian'.

The wit who came up with that prize of a slogan should have got a good dunking.

I'm glad you don't ride Harleys. Imagine how much they would disturb the peace of this sylvan scene.


On concrete?!

With sattelite dishes and nuclear power?!

Spud largely suspects that the other members of team Cadenhead are happy just to get Rogers away from a keyboard fer a few scant hours at a time.

Spud wonders if Rcade went cold turkey the whole time or whether he just waited fer the family to fall asleep before plugging into the net.

Spud has waaaay to much time on his hands.

Be Well.

PS Catch any three eyed fish?

Thems good eatin' ya know!

Lake Keowee looks so nice and cool. It is stifling hot in Florida, more like the equator than the subtropics, and if the heat wave goes on much longer I am bound to start writing a play in which Garrison Keillor sits around in his underwear beneath a ceiling fan and drinks sloe gin and curses the degeneracy of his ancestors that cost him the old homestead.

Down here we associate heat with sex. Once the temperature gets above a hundred for several days in a row, we expect to see the drunken Yankee canoodling with the preacher's wife and getting jazzed on some cheap coke, and the deputy begging the sheriff for some relief, and the night before the arrogant sonuvabitch goes to pick up his girlfriend, he learns that Garrison was his real daddy. Life is hell down here in the summertime, and you go to church just to enjoy the air-conditioning.

Southerners have pretty much ignored Garrison and his apocalyptic visions, his ladies with their big boobs and cigars, howling and moaning, but a few more weeks of this heat could change things.

Looking at this picture lowers my blood pressure. How inspired of the state of South Carolina to paint trigrams from the I Ching on the pavement. I didn't realize South Carolina was that deck.

This trigram composed of three unbroken stacked lines is named Force, and its binary value is 111. I used to throw the I Ching all the time, to consult the Oracle, as they say.

The ancient text could really shed some Light on the issue at hand. I suppose any random number generator would do, but the words of the Classic of Changes are the bedrock of Chinese society, and resonate with the authority of 5000 years of culture.

It's sobering to think that my Native American ancestors who crossed the Bering Strait, coming from Siberia, shared genes with the ancestors of the people who live in Mongolia today.

I saw a Mongolian band in full silk regalia playing their native Mongolian instruments in the underpass that leads to the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam.

When I heard them play and sing (they sing chords like those Tibetan monks), I felt the most incredible cellular connection with the music. The oddest thing was that it reminded me of bluegrass music with banjos, the lyrics sung in four-part harmony.

And I assure you that the fact that I was tripping on psilocybin truffles had nothing to do with it.

If you crop the picture to eliminate the modern-day objects (dare I say anachronisms?), the scene looks like the very embodiment of peace.

It makes you feel like you can dive right into a Mark Twain passage down the Mighty Mississip, and Lord, there's Hannibal around the bend. It's all a state of mind, but the transcendent is more accessible when you're in a place like this.

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