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And finally ...

Some headway in the cleanup of American Nuclear superfund site?

There might be some light visible at the end of the tunnel concerning a longstanding problem dealing with radiation levels at a closed plant in the county.

After more than 50 years, it appears that progress might be made toward cleaning up radiation levels in water around the American Nuclear Corp. site at the end of Blockhouse Valley Road.

“This is absolutely phenomenal, excellent and outstanding news,” Anderson County Mayor Terry Frank told county commissioners at their meeting on Monday, Sept. 19.

She informed them of the results of a recent workshop meeting she attended with officials of the U.S. Environmental Protection Administration and the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation.

The plant was built in the early 1960s by the late Jim Wilder, and went bankrupt a decade later. It used radioactive isotopes Cobalt-60 and Cesium-137 to make items for x-ray heads and other medical needs.

The problem began in 1968 when routine tests by Oak Ridge National Laboratory disclosed “significant and unacceptable” levels of nuclear radioactivity in a nearby river. Some cleanup was done in 1974, and the state of Tennessee took control of the site in 1980.

Since then, numerous unsuccessful attempts have been made to get the situation resolved.

The mayor said that EPA officials were on the site three-and-a-half days beginning Sept. 12 conducting an initial assessment of the site. She said EPA has agreed to fund a full assessment of the site. Then EPA and TDEC will get together and determine what resources and equipment will be needed to remedy the situation.

The next step would be actual remediation. Availability of funding for that action looks good. The Tennessee General Assembly has appropriated about $22 million for such projects.

That money could be used for the project, or state funds could be used in combination with federal funds for the cleanup, or EPA could possibly provide all the funding.

“I look forward to cleaning it up and cutting the ribbon,” the mayor told commissioners.

“I think I have been dealing with that for my entire career,” county Law Director Jay Yeager said of the situation. For years, he has been writing letters to various governmental agencies. “It seemed like we were at a dead end,” he said.

Yeager had attended the meeting with the mayor and said he was very encouraged by hearing the words, “guarantee” and “commitment.”

Yeager said that cleaning up this situation would benefit the development of the nearby Blockhouse Valley Nature Preserve.

He was quoted in the April 21, 2021, issue of The Courier News saying that, based on estimates from 2011 or 2012, it would take $4.4 million to clean up the site.

There is no timetable yet for subsequent actions that would be generated by the recent workshop meeting.