About two dozen people listened and commented Wednesday in two meetings as the Nuclear Regulatory Commission explained the process it will use to decide whether to extend Sequoyah Nuclear Plant's operating license until 2041.
If so, the plant by then will have operated 60 years -- 20 more than its designed life.
NRC's Mark Yoo and Emmanuel Sayoc, project managers for the Sequoyah license renewal environmental impact statement, assured listeners that the federal regulator would do a thorough safety and environmental review.
Yoo did acknowledge that the review would not start from scratch in all aspects "because 20 years of operating is enough time" to decide.
Construction at the now-32-year-old Sequoyah plant, about 16 miles northeast of downtown Chattanooga on the Tennessee River, began in 1969 -- 44 years ago. The plant was completed 11 years later in 1980. By 2041, the plant's design will be 72 years old.
Both Gretel Johnston, the Scottsboro, Ala., founder and member of an anti-nuclear group called Mothers Against Tennessee River Radiation, and Sandy Kurtz, a Chattanooga co-founder of another anti-nuclear group called the Bellefonte Efficiency and Sustainability Team, challenged NRC on the idea that it doesn't need to review everything.
"Aging is an issue, and the plant is operating with outmoded technology, and with parts that you can't get to because they are buried in concrete. And there are concerns over flooding [because of changes in river operations, mistaken calculations and changing regulations]," said Kurtz.
"If this truly is an [environmental impact statement], this has to be taken into consideration," Johnston added.
But Hardy Stulce, a former Soddy-Daisy council member and mayor, as well as a volunteer firefighter there, said he supports the extension.
He said Soddy-Daisy has benefited not only from the jobs but also from the electricity and economic development that TVA has engendered since it was founded in the 1930s.
"I've been in the plant and underneath it. It is a magnificent facility, and I'm not concerned about it as a neighbor. Yes, it is an old design, but it's a proven design," Stulce said.
TVA did not make comments during the meeting. Spokesman Scott Brooks said TVA is "following the process" prescribed for the extension application.
Sequoyah's current operating licenses expire Sept. 17, 2020, for Unit 1 and Sept. 15, 2021, for Unit 2.
TVA submitted its license extension application in January, shortly after completing the three-month, $360 million job of replacing the Unit 2 steam generators. The generators in Sequoyah's Unit 1 were replaced in 2003.
The NRC will continue to accept mailed, emailed or faxed comments until May 3.
Contact staff writer Pam Sohn at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6346.