Story by Gordon Boyd
Eyewitness News Reporter

CHATTANOOGA (WRCB)-- Nuclear energy has a broad and deep footprint in the Tennessee Valley.

A world re-interested in nuclear power is part of the reason Alstom re-invested more than a quarter billion dollars in Chattanooga, creating more than 350 jobs.-

But managers say its turbine business isn't nuclear driven. Literally or figuratively.

"The nature of our investment in Chattanooga is such that we're focused on multiple fuel types and we're able to provide technologies for multiple markets," says Tim Brown, corporate communications director for Alstom North America.

The Tennessee Valley Authority also discounts the impact of Japan's earthquake and tsunami-induced nuclear power crisis.

TVA has banked on nuclear energy to help ease our dependence on coal.

 Building Watts Bar's second generating station alone will cost $2.5 billion, according to the most recent estimates.

"(Japan) was an earthquake of historic magnitude out there," says Ray Golden, communications manager for TVA's nuclear division.

"The tsunami broke the 30-foot barrier that's not gonna happen here."

TVA cites the Nuclear Regulatory commissions own re-evaluation of our country's nuclear plants last September. It concluded that reactor designs provide an "adequate safety margin" for dealing with seismic activity.

"It's not just TVA," Golden says.

"About one out of every five homes or businesses gets their power from nuclear energy and hopefully that will continue or maybe even grow."

A former Southeast Tennessee Congressman-turned energy lobbyist minces no words.

"Nuclear energy is the smartest, cheapest, most efficient and safest way going forward," Zach Wamp claims.

Wamp had just returned from touring nuclear facilities in the United Kingdom when Japan's quakes and tsunamis hit.

"Don't shut the down the industry because of what happened in Japan," Wamp says.

"Be careful that we don't over-regulate ourselves to where we have no more free enterprise in America."