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Would Disney Really Build a Nuclear Plant in Orlando? via City Lab

Florida politicians may expunge an old law that gives Disney World the right to build its own nuclear plant. But they probably don’t need to bother.

Ever since the Walt Disney Company began work on the Magic Kingdom near Orlando in the late 1960s, the Mouse, as locals call it, has wielded considerable political power in the state. Case in point? A law enacted in 1967 makes it totally legal for the company to build and operate a nuclear reactor on its property south of Orlando proper.

Recently, there have been rumblings in Florida politics about changing this. State Senator Victor Torres believes a family vacation spot is no place for a nuclear-power plant, and it’s time to strike the law from the books. “I don’t think Disney would ever [build a nuclear plant], I don’t foresee that, but I just want to prevent anything like that from occurring—period,” he told The Orlando Sentinel in February. During the legislature’s 2019 session, which ended on May 3, another lawmaker, State Representative Bruce Antone, contemplated filing a bill that would block the Walt Disney Company’s ability to build a nuclear reactor. (He didn’t file it, in the end.)

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Walt Disney himself believed that political power was necessary to make that level of organization possible. That’s why, beginning in the late ’60s, his company carved out its own political jurisdiction in Central Florida. It created the Reedy Creek Improvement District, making Disney World its own tightly controlled governmental entity with its own laws. Disney has the power, for example, to create its own police force, even though it hasn’t so far.

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That means renewables. The Magic Kingdom added a huge solar facility to its repertoire in 2018, and the company plans to reduce its carbon footprint significantly over the next year. (A different solar field opened in 2016, with a typically Disney touch: It’s shaped like Mickey Mouse’s head.)

Renewable energy also harkens back to Disney’s original mission. “[Walt Disney] really believed in green technologies,” said Christian Moran, director of the documentary Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow: The Futurism of Walt Disney. In fact, Disney’s vision for EPCOT, his city of the future, was environmentally progressive, especially for its time. It did away with cars and relied largely on electricity.

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Even Antone, who almost filed the bill that would nix the nuclear option, doubts that the step is necessary. His bill, he told CityLab, is aimed at making contract arbitration binding for Reedy Creek firefighters; the nuclear clause was likely added for leverage, he said.

The cost to build a nuclear plant is in the billions, Antone noted. “You’re talking about 30 or 40 years before they would even begin to break even on that,” he said. “The likelihood of them building a power plant is probably slim to none. There would be a huge cost to going through the regulatory process. I don’t see them going down that road any time soon.”

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  1. yukimiyamotodepaul says

    Never knew that a private company other than utilities is allowed to build a nuclear power plant…



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