Walt Disney launched his spectacular first amusement park, Disney World, into the world and made it “the happiest place on earth”, a place where nuclear energy had nothing to do with it. But what few know is that in 1967 the state of Florida passed a law that allowed Disney to build a nuclear power plant. That law is still in effect.
If Disney wanted to, they could build their own nuclear power plant. And it is a reflection of the political power that the corporation and its then visionary founder had and still have.
Disney apparently wanted protection from government regulation, and also possessed unusual political clout, primarily because the state and local community wanted the park at all costs.
Under the acronym of EPCOT was hidden the Prototype of the Experimental Community of Tomorrow (Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow), Walt Disney’s dream in the 1960s. A city that was very close to becoming a reality.
The plan was to build buildings, highways, minor roads, sewage, drainage, electrical installations… A complete city.
It did not come to fruition and eventually EPCOT ended up being just a part of the Disney World theme park in Florida. But its history and what was intended give context to the law that is still in force.
The initial project was based on this: to build a city designed to stimulate American companies to achieve new milestones for urban life, technological innovation being one of the keys.
That’s why Walt thought that Florida was the perfect destination and the best location for the new project. Through various fictitious companies he ended up buying more than 100 km² of swamps in the state, an enclave located between Orlando and Kissimmee.
In addition, he got the State of Florida to give Walt Disney Productions municipal jurisdiction over the land he had acquired, guaranteeing full control over any aspect of the development of said property.
That included constructing buildings, roads, and drains, collecting taxes, issuing bonds, and having emergency services, powers usually reserved for a county government.
Disney also asked for, and was given, the authority to make distilled spirits, which also doesn’t fit the Disney image.
In essence, Walt Disney got full power, sort of like a home rule within a home government (Florida). Disney wanted EPCOT to be self-sufficient, and he believed that nuclear power was the best way to do it. To prove it he came to take out a pamphlet under the title of Our Friend the Atom (Our friend the atom) in 1956.
Time passed, that law was never changed and is still in force. In other words, Disney could build a nuclear power plant.
turn to green
Although now Disney has turned green, switching its lighting to LED, and using solar power and natural gas.
The 170,000-light Cinderella castle show has been converted to LED lighting, reducing the amount of energy used, and has built a solar farm (in the shape of Mickey Mouse) with 48,000 solar panels.
Disney World’s annual operating costs exceed $10 billion and require more than 1 billion kWh of electricity.