Environmentalists challenge TVA small modular nuclear reactor plan

NRC is reviewing the application to determine if the site works for two or more reactors

Content Dam Pei Online Articles 2016 02 Nuscale Power Smr

OAK RIDGE, Tenn. (AP) — Environmental groups are challenging the Tennessee Valley Authority's proposal to use a Tennessee nuclear reactor design site abandoned in the 1970s to develop new small modular reactors.

According to the Chattanooga Times Free Press, the Southern Alliance for Clean Power, the Union of Concerned Scientists and the Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League have challenged the Oak Ridge project's site application. They say the reactors remain untested, unsafe and unneeded.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission is reviewing the application to determine if the site works for two or more reactors generating up to 800 MW of nuclear power.

Sara Barczak, the high-risk energy choices program director with the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, compared the project to the Clinch River Breeder Reactor project that was planned for the site in the 1970s, but was scrapped amid escalating prices for the technology.

"We are very concerned that history is once again repeating itself," Barczak said. "And we are concerned that billions of dollars could be spent on a technology that is unproven, untested and significantly more expensive than other types of power technology that are available to TVA."

TVA says it's seeking the permit in case it wants to increase future nuclear power generation. Spokesman Jim Hopson says TVA hasn't decided if it will build the reactors.

Additionally, TVA says that part of its mission is to develop and test technologies while working with other federal agencies to push for innovation and economic development.

The environmental groups don't think TVA is justified in pushing to shrink the emergency planning zone around the planned reactors from the standard 10 miles to about two miles.

TVA, the nation's largest public utility, serves more than 9 million people in parts of seven southeastern states.

More in Test & Measurement