Energy Report

Opposition to Potential Nuclear Reactors in Tennessee

Date: August 22, 2017

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By Rachel Pressley

The Tennessee Valley Authority is seeking an early site permit from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to allow two or more small modular nuclear reactors to eventually be installed at its 1,200-acre Clinch River site in Roane County, Tenn.

This type of nuclear power plant is an experimental structure that produces 50 to 300 megawatts in total power, roughly one-third the power of traditional nuclear power plants.

At a required public meeting on May 15 in Oak Ridge, seven commenters were in favor of the plan and five were opposed. The draft environmental impact statement is expected to be released in June 2018 prior to another comment period.

The Tennessee Valley Authority suggests that small modular reactors allow for improved safety, lower costs and reduced construction time.

Several green groups petitioned the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission with concerns about the potential reactors. On June 12, the Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League argued that the proposal would violate the National Environmental Policy Act and that the reactors would increase the risk for hydrogen explosions. The groups argued that renewables are a better investment.

The Southern Alliance for Clean Energy and the Tennessee Environmental Council also filed a petition. Dianne Curran, the attorney for both groups, argued that the plant would be dangerous and costly. With a smaller emergency planning zone than is normally required, state and local governments would not be able to prepare for an emergency properly.

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