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Besch and other Missile Defense Agency representatives declined to specify exactly how powerful the radar was, but some audience members speculated 25,000 watts from information he did provide.

"It's safe for the operator to walk right behind it," he said.

The agency also is working with aviation authorities to determine the best ways to keep planes out of the beam. Besch said aviators will be notified when it will be used.

State Rep. Andrea Doll, D-Juneau, has been monitoring the issue on behalf of constituents in the area, and said she's been reassured by what she's heard so far.

"I think I support it," she said.

Nearby resident Bill Leighty said he didn't expect many objections to the actual mechanics of the operation, but said there might be other concerns.

"The nuisance to Juneau is gong to be very modest," he said. "The biggest question is the false sense of security."

Tuesday's session at the new institute was billed as an informational session for nearby residents. A formal town hall style meeting is scheduled for Sept. 13 to hear from the broader community, Besch said.

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