The old TVA nuclear plant reactor building ruins, shown here, and the nearby cooling tower, were approved Thursday by the Hawkins County IDB to be used for SWAT training. (photo by Jeff Bobo)
ROGERSVILLE — Hawkins County's SWAT team trains in schools, churches, mountains, fields, urban setting, forests, and just about any other type of environment that can be found in this region.
Add to that post-nuclear wasteland.
On Thursday the Hawkins County Industrial Development Board gave its approval for the sheriff's office to begin using the abandoned Tennessee Valley Authority nuclear power plant ruins at Phipps Bend for SWAT training.
IDB member Terry Glass told the board he received a request from the HCSO for permission to use the old cooling tower and reactor building for repelling training.
Glass noted that Phipps Bend already has had a shooting range for military and police use only for more than 20 years.
"They need that practice," Glass said. "One of these days one of us may be in trouble, and need those boys to be able to shoot their guns, and be in the right place at the right time. The SWAT team is set up for a purpose that is very well needed, and as you all know, we could have had an incident at Volunteer High School."
Glass added, "Those boys need to be ready and active, and they need to train for an environment that they may end up in. That requires repelling, night vision, and (the TVA ruins) makes the perfect location for this type of training."
Industrial Developer Lynn Lawson said the request must also go before the Phipps Bend Joint Venture Committee and the Kingsport Economic Development Council for final approval.
The HCSO SWAT teams was actually training Thursday in residential settings at a location that was donated in another county.
Sheriff Ronnie Lawson said the TVA nuclear plant ruins will provide his SWAT team with several new training opportunities.
"You never know when you're going to be repelling down cliffs, or tall buildings, and I want my team to be able to handle any situation that they face, and be well trained and experienced at it," Lawson said. "They train in all elements — hot, cold, rain, snow. Like today they're training in a neighboring county fairly large residence. They train at schools, churches, barns, open fields."
Lawson added, "(The old nuclear plant) will add a new challenge for us to gain more expertise in fairly dangerous environment."