published Saturday, October 22nd, 2011

Watts Bar Nuclear Plant drill results still up in the air

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    The Watts Bar Dam site in Spring City, Tenn., taken from across the dam inside the Meigs County line off state Highway 68. Photo by Kimberly McMillian

It may be six more weeks before all the findings are back from a nuclear preparedness drill Wednesday at Watts Bar Nuclear Plant.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency told state and county responders on Friday in Sweetwater, Tenn., that they found no deficiencies, but inspectors with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission said they are continuing to review TVA's drill efforts.

"The NRC evaluation of the exercise is ongoing," NRC spokesman Joey Ledford said in a prepared statement. "Our findings will be part of an inspection report to be released within 45 days of the exercise."

Tennessee Valley Authority spokesman Ray Golden said having no deficiencies, findings or needed corrective actions from FEMA is "as good a performance score as the evaluation process allows."

But FEMA doesn't grade the nuclear plants in the biennial drills, only the state and county emergency planners and responders. The NRC grades TVA's drill response and nuclear readiness.

Dean Flener, spokesman for the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency, said state workers were very pleased with the FEMA findings.

"FEMA said there are a few things for us to work on, mainly with the counties. They need some 'smart books' to have on hand that would have information like how many students go to the schools [that might be in an evacuation zone]. But there were no significant items," Flener said.

A similar drill is scheduled on Dec. 7 at Browns Ferry Nuclear Plant near Athens, Ala.

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about Pam Sohn...

Pam Sohn has been reporting or editing Chattanooga news for 25 years. A Walden’s Ridge native, she began her journalism career with a 10-year stint at the Anniston (Ala.) Star. She came to the Chattanooga Times Free Press in 1999 after working at the Chattanooga Times for 14 years. She has been a city editor, Sunday editor, wire editor, projects team leader and assistant lifestyle editor. As a reporter, she also has covered the police, ...

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