The Environmental Journal of Southern Appalachia

Displaying items by tag: department of energy

American-Nuclear-2.jpgThe remains of American Nuclear Corporation in Anderson County, Tenn. The company closed in 1972.  Photo courtesy of Tennessee Lookout

American Nuclear Corporation leaked radioactive chemicals for years before it closed in 1972

This article was originally published by Tennessee Lookout.

CLAXTON — An East Tennessee site that has been contaminated for about 50 years with radioactive waste is set to be cleaned up with about $13.5 million in funding from the Environmental Protection Agency, the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation told Anderson County on October 9. 

The American Nuclear Corporation site, located in Claxton, Tennessee, has been a source of concern for Anderson County Government for years. Local officials have reached out at various points since at least 2008 to the state, the EPA and their district’s congressmen for help on cleaning up the site, according to a compilation of county records distributed last year by then County Commissioner Catherine Denenberg to the county’s intergovernmental committee.  

“I don’t know if we’re on camera, but in case we are, I am not going to dance but I am so darn excited about this!” County Mayor Terry Frank said after the announcement at the county’s intergovernmental meeting. “This is huge for Anderson County.”

In the 1960s, the American Nuclear Corporation “manufactured radiological sources for medical institutions,” a 2010 county application for the EPA’s National Brownfield Program grant said. The company had obtained source materials for their products from the Department of Energy. Isotopes that were handled included Cobalt-60 and Cesium-137, the application said. 

“Poor housekeeping was a problem during the entire period that the plant was in operation, and is extensively documented in compliance letters by the Tennessee Department of Public Health — Division of Occupational and Radiological Health. ANC was repeatedly cited for violations involving radioactive material,” the application said.

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Southern Appalachians NASAThis photo of the Southern Appalachians was taken from 30,000 feet. “Notice how the clouds are parallel with the ridges below them. Wind near the surface blowing up the western slopes forms waves in the atmosphere. At the crest of the wave, over the ridge tops, the air has cooled sufficiently to condense into clouds. As this air descends toward the wave trough, it becomes slightly warmer and drier, inhibiting condensation.”  Seth Adams via NASA

Earth Day activities have cooled in Knoxville over the decades. The planet has not.

KNOXVILLE — It’s been 52 years since the modern environmental movement was born on what is now known around the world as Earth Day.

Now reckoned to be the world’s largest secular observance, Earth Day is the climax of Earth Week (April 16 to 22), which brings together an estimated billion people around the globe working to change human behavior and push for pro-environment economic and legislative action. This year’s theme is “Invest in the planet.”

Events marking Earth Day in Knoxville tend to vary in size and tone from year-to-year, with 2023 providing environmentally minded residents with a number of ways to celebrate Mother Earth. 

Perhaps the most memorable of those years was the very first one, when one of the most important voices in the burgeoning environmental movement spoke on the University of Tennessee campus.

Jane Jacobs, who is now recognized as “the godmother of the New Urbanism movement,” gave a lecture to a crowd of nearly 200 people on the topic of “Man and His Environment” at the Alumni Memorial Hall, according to Jack Neely, who heads the Knoxville History Project.

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Image of historic Elza Entrance signage

Potential water runoff issues stall future Oak Ridge landfill construction

OAK RIDGE — A landfill intended to hold potentially toxic debris from the demolition of legacy Oak Ridge research facilities is moving forward but construction won’t start until it is definitively determined whether the site could pollute ground and surface water.

As reported previously by Hellbenderpress, environmentalists fear toxins leaking out of the proposed landfill could contaminate waterways and make their way into fish that people might catch downstream. The landfill’s contractor, however, said leaving buildings full of toxic residue standing may be more dangerous for workers and nearby residents and the landfill will help get the buildings quickly demolished. The contractor is doing a mock-up study this year to see how best to handle water issues on the future landfill site.

This summer, the contractor United Cleanup Oak Ridge LLC will choose a subcontractor and do field work. Ben Williams, the Department of Energy’s public affairs specialist, said roads and utilities will need to move to get the site ready at that time. But UCOR stated it won’t build the landfill until after a water study spanning “two wet seasons,” beginning later this year. 

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