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Official calls for updated nuclear plan in Limestone

By Chris Paschenko
chris@decaturdaily.com 340-2442

The director of Limestone County's Emergency Management Agency on Monday called for federal officials to update 26-year-old radiological emergency response plans to require alternate power sources for evacuation shelters.

Spencer Black described his concerns following an oversight panel meeting between the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and Tennessee Valley Authority on progress of the anticipated restart of the Unit 1 reactor at Browns Ferry Nuclear Plant.

"No reception centers have backup power," Black said. "And it's not just my county. It's all the counties in the state. "

Black said providing generators to power shelters at Ardmore, Elkmont and East and West Limestone schools would cost about $50,000.

"The 0654 Criteria for Preparedness is the bible that tells us what to do and what not to do," Black said.

"An evacuation is not going to happen at the perfect time. If we evacuate and it's 10 degrees or 105 degrees, there'll be no suitable place to go."

Black also called for state, federal and TVA help in funding backup power sources for outdoor sirens or an indoor system that would call residents with a recorded message alerting them to an emergency.

"If I'm outside, I'll hear that outdoor warning system," Black said. "But if it's 2 a.m. and my heating system is going, I'm not going to hear the outdoor warning system."

Eddie Hicks, director of Morgan County EMA, said none of the TVA community alert systems have backup power. He said Morgan County has purchased outdoor warning sirens that have a battery attached to the pole to provide power during outages.

"We already have plans to route cars with sirens, alerting the public to tune to a radio station with public information," Hicks said. "If it ever gets to a point where there's a widespread power outage and we can't sound any sirens, we'll notify TVA that we can't carry out the requirements to notify the public, and it's up to them to take actions."

Hicks said TVA could provide power through other providers or by increasing capacity of coal and hydroelectric systems in the event Browns Ferry is offline.

During the NRC meeting, TVA officials announced the company is on schedule to meet its board of directors' Unit 1 restart deadline of May 2007. TVA shut down all three reactors in 1985.

Craig Beasley, a TVA spokesman, said that once the company completes its testing of Unit 1, it will request NRC authorization for restart.

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