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Wednesday, August 19, 2009 - 1:00pm

Controversial Energy Park Ideas Discussed at Public Meeting Near Augusta

Federal officials are considering whether to house an energy park near Augusta, one that could possibly include commercial nuclear reactors.

The U.S. Department of Energy held a public meeting on the park proposal on Tuesday. The meeting followed accusations by environmental groups that the agency and a community group were planning the park out of the public eye, an accusation that energy department officials deny.

The park would be located at the Savannah River Site, a federal entity that once processed nuclear materials for weapons. The site is undergoing an extensive, years-long environmental cleanup.

Land at the site would be leased to the Savannah River Site Community Reuse Organization, who in turn would lease the land to private contractors. Projects at the park could include commercial nuclear energy, biofuels and research. Such commercial ventures would bring jobs to the area. The head of the organization had said earlier this year that he expected to complete a deal with the energy department by this summer.

But Friends of the Earth, an environmental group, fears that the projects would bring with them nuclear waste. The group has repeatedly called for more public involvement in the plan.

This week's meeting was held after the energy department scrapped plans for an environmental assessment related to the park. Unlike a public hearing, officials with the agency discussed general ideas for the park, not specific plans. They also took comments and answered questions from people who attended.