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Federal Officials Consider New Nuclear Plant

By Associated Press

Scottsboro AL – The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission is sorting through testimony from supporters of a proposed nuclear plant who cite benefits to the local economy and opponents who warn of potential health risks.

NuStart, a consortium of nuclear utilities including the Tennessee Valley Authority, wants to build the plant next to the TVA's unfinished Bellefonte site, which also has two units. After investing $4.2 billion, TVA stopped construction at the site in 1988 because of debt and a reduced demand for electricity at the time.

But Jack Bailey, TVA vice president of nuclear generation, said nuclear power is now the best means for meeting the growing demand for electrical energy in the Tennessee Valley and other options like wind or solar energy aren't ready.

Bailey was among several people, including local civic and government officials, who spoke at the first of two public meetings the commission held at the Scottsboro Goosepond Civic Center this week. The meetings are among several steps the NRC requires before deciding whether to grant a combined construction/operating license for the plant.

Don Safer, chairman of the Tennessee Environmental Council, said he was worried about the health dangers such a plant would bring to the area.

"It's a high-risk technology," the Nashville resident said during Thursday's hearing.

"There's no safe dose of radiation," he said, claiming the proposed plant would not be able to control routine releases of low levels of radiation into the environment."

The NRC will continue to accept written comments on the proposed plant through April 25 and is scheduled to release a summary of that statement on Aug. 19. The draft is to be issued to the Environmental Protection Agency next March and another public hearing will be held before the final draft is approved.

Bailey said construction is scheduled to begin 2012 on the first unit and 2013 on the second one. They are expected to be completed by 2017 and 2018, respectively, at a cost of up to $9 billion, he said.

Supporters included U.S. Rep. Bud Cramer, who was represented by Jim McCamy; the Jackson County Economic Development Authority (EDA), the Greater Jackson County Chamber of Commerce and the Jackson County Commission.

Lou Zeller, science director for the Bellefonte Efficiency & Sustainability Team, a local chapter of the Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League, said the amount of money that would be invested in the plant could be spent on safer sources of energy.

EDA Executive Director Dus Rogers said the 2,500 construction jobs and 800 permanent positions created by the project "will enhance the quality of life in Jackson County. It will be the largest economic development project in the county."

Safer said it's the "most risky and most damaging technologies" that locate in areas that are struggling economically and where officials find it difficult to reject them.

Safer said there's no plan for how nuclear waste from the plant will be safely stored or how the plant will eventually be decommissioned.

The danger of radioactive contamination from decommissioned nuclear plants can last 250,000 years, he said.

"Nuclear power is not the solution," Safer said. "It's the height of human arrogance to leave that kind of legacy."


Information from: The Huntsville Times,

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