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Protesters Hold Halloween Rally at Nuclear Plant

October 29, 1994

SPRING CITY, Tenn. (AP) _ Protesters dressed as the Grim Reaper and other Halloween spooks demonstrated Saturday at a nuclear plant plagued by safety complaints and accidents since construction began 22 years ago.

″Something Scary Is Going On In There,″ read signs carried by some of the nearly 200 protesters outside the Watts Bar Nuclear Plant, to be operated by the Tennessee Valley Authority.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission says more safety complaints have been filed against Watts Bar than any other U.S. plant.

″They started building this plant in 1972. I wasn’t even born. It was supposed to cost $625,000, and 22 years later we’re at nearly $7 billion,″ said Mary Ann Peine, who helped organize the protest with an environmental group from the University of Tennessee-Knoxville.

″It’s uneconomical, it’s unsafe and it’s unnecessary,″ she said.

TVA hopes to start one of two reactors next March. Inspectors, however, said the opening could be delayed once again because of safety problems found by the commission.

In 1985, engineers’ safety concerns forced work to stop weeks before operations were set to begin.

Watts Bar spokeswoman Barbara Martocci hoped to sway some of the protesters as she served them lemonade outside the plant, about 50 miles northeast of Chattanooga.

″We’re making a safe, quality plant and we’re sticking to our projected fueling date,″ Martocci said.

Besides two Grim Reapers, the crowd included a protester dressed as a devil wearing a TVA shirt and several people in white make-up and black clothes representing death.

There have been three reported accidents at Watts Bar since June.

An explosion in June caused by a short circuit in an electrical board injured three workers and caused the control room to temporarily lose power to an emergency system.

On Sept. 17, about 100 people were evacuated from two buildings after workers mixed too much epoxy grout causing a nauseating odor and smoke. Eight people were hospitalized for headaches and skin irritations.

A week later, fire swept through a metal fabrication building. No one was injured.

In July, 57 people were arrested after members of the environmental group Earth First 3/8 demonstrated at the plant. There were no arrests Saturday.

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