published Friday, February 20th, 2009

Tennessee: NRC OKs new work at Bellefonte

More than two decades after construction stopped at the Bellefonte Nuclear Power Plant, federal regulators have cleared the way for the Tennessee Valley Authority to resume Alabama’s costliest construction project.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission said Thursday it will reinstate the construction permit for the original Bellefonte units, even as the agency considers another request to build two new units at the Bellefonte site near Scottsboro, Ala.

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TVA spokesman Terry Johnson said the federal utility welcomed the NRC’s decision, although he said TVA has yet to make a decision either to finish the original reactors or build new reactors at Bellefonte.

Louise Gorenflo, a member of the Bellefonte Efficiency and Sustainability Team, which opposes TVA’s plans for a nuclear plant at Bellefonte, urged the NRC not to license the Bellefonte units because “the design is over 30 years old and has not proven to be successful in the United States.”

TVA invested more than $4 billion in the unfinished reactors at the Bellefonte site before suspending construction in 1988 and giving up the plant’s construction permits in 2006. The federal utility halted work on the units — more than half finished at the time — because the growth in power demand slowed and the costs of finishing the original Bellefonte units continued to rise.

Last August, however, TVA asked to reinstate the construction permit to allow the utility to reassess whether rising power and material costs have changed the economics of finishing the units.

TVA also is developing plans to build two next-generation reactors at Bellefonte through a consortium of other utilities known as NuStart Energy LLC.

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