Environmental groups push back against TVA reactor site plan

David Ball # State

KINGSTON, Tenn. (WVLT) -- It would be the first of its kind in the United States, but several people have said "no" to a proposed modular reactor in Anderson County.

On Tuesday, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission held a public meeting in Kingston to let the public share concerns or ask questions about the proposed site.

The commission said the small modular reactor, or SMR, if permitted would be built on 1,200 acres of TVA land in Anderson County at the Clinch River Site.

Tennessee Valley Authority spokesperson Scott Brooks said the reactor would be the first of its kind in East Tennessee and could provide carbon-free clean energy. It would run 24/7, just like traditional nuclear plants.

However some felt the plan is too risky. Sara Barczak with the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy said the reactor has too many unknowns.

"We don't want to scare people, but we want the NRC to take a closer look at this,"
Barczak said.
"Let's say SMR's are built and there was an accident in the fuel pool, like we are concerned about. You could literally see many deaths — we're talking hundreds of thousands of deaths — and the air and soil contaminated. (It would be) a long term impact."

Barbara Kelly drove all the way from Chattanooga to share her concern at the meeting. Kelly said the NRC should consider other power alternatives at the site instead of a reactor.

"It's not safe,"
Kelly said.
"Any nuclear or radiation is not safe; we don't need more of it or the possibility of it."

The site plan has no timetable. NRC public affairs Joey Ledford said the project would still need to be permitted and licensed.