Officials in Knoxville, Tenn., have taken the first step towards recycling an industrial site that used to process uranium into a general aviation airport.
The industrial area was closed down decades ago, according to Lawrence Young, president of the Community Reuse Organization of East Tennessee (CROET), an organization that oversees the redevelopment of industrial sites.
The former uranium processing facility, which covers 1,100 acres, has something in short supply in hilly East Tennessee, according to Young.
“It’s basically a flat, long strip of black top,” he said.
Last last month, the Knoxville City Council unanimously passed a resolution in support of CROET’s efforts to undertake a feasibility study.
“Our next step is to approach the regional airport authority and ask them to partner with us to assist in getting funds to undertake the feasibility study,” Young said. “Part of the study will include whether the market will support the construction of a new airport.”
That could be the easiest part of the project. According to Young, the nearest general aviation airport is 20 or so miles away and located on an island in a river.
“It cannot expand,” he said, “and most of the terrain in the region is hilly. From a strictly physical standpoint, the flat terrain of the former uranium processing area makes it attractive as a site for a new airport, but that is just one component that we are looking at.”
The feasibility study also will include evaluating how to pay for the new airport.
“We are researching grants for the construction and the possibility of a partnership with the Knoxville Metro Airport,” Young said. “But that’s off in the distance. Right now the airport is just an idea.”
Young admits that redeveloping a site that was connected to nuclear material presents some public perception problems.
“People worry about safety,” he said. “I can show them reams of data on the safety of the site. We have had industrial facilities on it for 10 years with no ill effects.”
For more information: CROET.com.