A hidden tunnel has been recently uncovered at TVA’s Norris Engineering Labs. The tunnel had been buried beneath the surface for decades, with no record or indication of its existence. Measuring 40’ long and 10’ wide, it was discovered during TVA’s Norris consolidation and renovation work.
“Access to the tunnel is currently prohibited due to environmental, health and safety concerns, however through a collaborative effort with TVA’s unmanned aerial systems (UAS) program, we are able to explore the interior. This drone footage is the first time anyone’s seen the inside of the tunnel since it was closed up, likely 30 to 40 years ago, if not more,” said Norris Consolidation Project Manager Cindy Light.
What adds to the allure is the mysterious purpose of this bygone catacomb. Was it associated with the historic Norris kiln? Was it utilized as a bomb shelter during cold war era relations? Or perhaps it was simply a passageway to the old refractory building which was constructed in the 1950s.
In the coming months, TVA will investigate its purpose and document future plans through consultation with the State Historic Preservation Office. But for now, excavation activities near the tunnel have been paused until a determination can be made on how to proceed.
“When working in legacy space, especially a historic R&D site, there is always an element of the unknown. Discovery poses a real challenge to the project’s budget and schedule, but it’s also really interesting to be a part of, as we are literally uncovering history while working to preserve it at the same time,” said Light.
The work team includes five TVA retirees who are assisting with this project: Mike Thompson, Jerry Davis, Steve Caldwell, Mark McNeely and Ken Lewis. They are working through RRC (Retiree Resources Corporation) which is a part of BVI.