Editor’s Note: This story has been updated to more accurately reflect the purpose of the meeting. News Channel 11 regrets the error.
ERWIN, Tenn. (WJHL) — Questions about a potential new process coming to Nuclear Fuel Services’ Erwin plant surfaced at a regular public licensee performance review for the nuclear facility Thursday.
Protesters from Appalachian Peace Education Center, Erwin Community Awareness Network, and other organizations gathered ahead of the review for a protest and used time for public questions as an opportunity to express concerns about a Department of Energy Contract granted to NFS to produce a metal form of uranium.
“Our feeling is that people need to understand what they’re doing,” Barbara O’Neal, vice president of Erwin Citizens Awareness Network, told News Channel 11. “If it’s something that’s been done at Oak Ridge and they’re going to do it here, people need to understand what it is.”
O’Neal has worked with the advocacy group Erwin Citizens Awareness Network to earn a formal role in regulatory decision-making that would determine whether NFS can begin the new uranium process.
ECAN’s request was denied earlier this year, but activists are still working to earn a role in the process.
“We just want to be heard,” Yogev Von Kundra, a member of Appalachian Peace Education Center, said. “I’m going to keep raising my voice until we feel heard and that’s why we’re still out here.”
Officials with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission say they’re still in the process of reviewing NFS’ application, including safety and environmental impact components of the application.
“There’s some open technical issues that the staff is still discussion,” said James Downs, senior project manager with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
In the meantime, NRC officials say they’re listening to the concerns from the community.
“Some of what I heard tonight…as far as community involvement, that’s something I’m going to take back to the NRC and see if we can have a discussion here with the community,” said Downs.
Downs said the NRC expects to have a final decision on NFS’ license amendment in July.