published Friday, December 9th, 2011

TVA nuclear protesters say they feel ignored

  • photo
    Don Safer, president of the Tennessee Environmental Council
    Photo by Shannon Fontaine

Do you think nuclear plants are safe?

SWEETWATER, Tenn. -- A handful of anti-nuclear activists told the Nuclear Regulatory Commission Thursday that they didn't expect anything they said to sway the federal regulator from licensing a second reactor at the Watts Bar Nuclear Plant.

"I feel like we're David and Goliath, but we have no sacred stone," said Don Safer, president of the Tennessee Environmental Council.

Noting that "baby food was recalled in Japan because they've found radioactivity in it" from the Fukushimi Dai-ichi reactor meltdown in March, "the impacts [of nuclear accidents] reverberate on everything," Safer said.

"But you keep saying we should educate ourselves. Well, the more I know, the more I'm concerned."

Safer and others spoke Thursday during a meeting designed to listen to the public's reaction to the ongoing construction of a new reactor at Watts Bar near Spring City, Tenn. There were two meetings held Thursday, and no one spoke in favor of the reactor at either meeting.

The NRC's Jeremy Susco told the activists that the preliminary finding in the agency's supplement to the reactor's 33-year-old draft environmental statement is that "the environmental impacts are not significant enough to forgo issuing the operating license" for the Watts Bar Unit 2 reactor.

Sandy Kurtz, another anti-nuclear leader, said the "no significant impacts" statement makes no sense to her, since the plant's nuclear fuel, production and waste is being doubled.

"The only reason I see for that is the assumption that the environment is already destroyed," Kurtz said.

Kathryn Ferris, an anti-nuclear activist, said she is concerned about water quality because of tritium leaks into groundwater at Watts Bar, which the NRC supplemental environmental impact statement acknowledged.

The Tennessee Valley Authority, which operates Watts Bar, has told NRC the leak is fixed, according to the report.

Neither TVA nor NRC responded to any of the comments.

NRC spokesman Roger Hannah said the comments, along with any others received by the end of Dec. 27, will be considered for the final supplemental statement.

Safer apologized that the same groups are vocal at many TVA and NRC public hearings.

about Pam Sohn...

Pam Sohn has been reporting or editing Chattanooga news for 25 years. A Walden’s Ridge native, she began her journalism career with a 10-year stint at the Anniston (Ala.) Star. She came to the Chattanooga Times Free Press in 1999 after working at the Chattanooga Times for 14 years. She has been a city editor, Sunday editor, wire editor, projects team leader and assistant lifestyle editor. As a reporter, she also has covered the police, ...

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