TVA seeks public comment on Browns Ferry Nuclear Plant

By Kathy Helms-Hughes

STAR STAFF

   Tennessee Valley Authority is seeking a license amendment from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to produce tritium for the U.S. Department of Energy at its Watts Bar and Sequoyah commercial nuclear plants.
   John Moulton, director of TVA media relations, said, "We are in the process of seeking a license amendment so that we can produce tritium at Watts Bar and Sequoyah if necessary. We're waiting on DOE to give us the word as to whether they want that done and how much they want. We haven't gotten that at this point."
   Tritium, a radioactive isotope of hydrogen, is used to enhance the performance of nuclear weapons and is a necessary component for all weapons in DOE's stockpile. According to DOE, tritium decays at 5.5 percent per year and must be replaced periodically as long as the nation relies on a nuclear deterrent.
   While the National Security Policy states that the United States must retain a nuclear deterrent capability, opponents say the use of commercial reactors for defense purposes would undermine nonproliferation efforts with other countries.
   The notice of TVA's license amendment was published Dec. 17 in the Federal Register (Volume 66, Number 242, Page 64998-65000). Comments on TVA's application must be submitted in writing and must be received by Wednesday, Jan. 16. They should be addressed to: Chief, Rules and Directives Branch, Division of Administrative Services, Office of Administration, U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Washington, D.C. 20555-0001. Comments should cite the publication date and page number of the Federal Register notice.
   TVA also is seeking public comment on a draft supplemental environmental impact statement that examines environmental impacts of a proposal to extend the operation of Units 2 and 3 and, possibly Unit 1 at Browns Ferry Nuclear Plant. Unit 1 has not operated since it was severely damaged by fire in the late 1970s.
   Renewal of the licenses would permit TVA to continue operating the units an additional 20 years past the current 40-year operating license terms. The supplemental environmental impact statement examines potential impacts of restarting Unit 1 and increasing the power output by up to 20 percent.
   Copies of the draft SEIS may be requested from Donald W. Snodgrass at TVA, CEB 4C, Muscle Shoals, Ala. 35662-1010, or by e-mail at dwsnodgrass@tva.gov. Written comments, due by Jan. 30, may be submitted to Bruce L. Yeager, Senior Specialist, National Environmental Policy Act, TVA, WT 8C-K, 400 W. Summit Hill Drive, Knoxville, Tenn. 37902-1499. Comments also may be e-mailed to blyeager@tva.gov.
   A public meeting will be held at 6 p.m. Jan. 17 at the Aerospace Technology Training Center on the campus of Calhoun Community College near Decatur, Ala., to provide an opportunity to comment on the draft SEIS.
   Under an agreement with the Department of Energy, TVA will be downblending 33 metric tons of surplus highly enriched uranium at Nuclear Fuel Services Inc. in Erwin for use at Browns Ferry. The project is set to begin in 2003, with the first reload of the downblended fuel to begin in 2005.