published Saturday, August 21st, 2010

TVA to shutter coal plants, turn to nuclear

  • photo
    Staff File Photo by Dan Henry/Chattanooga Times Free Press - Tennessee Valley Authority employees review streaming information at the system operations center in downtown Chattanooga.

KNOXVILLE — TVA will shutter part of its aging fleet of coal power plants and turn to nuclear power and energy conservation to power the Tennessee Valley under a 10-year plan adopted Friday.

Tennessee Valley Authority President Tom Kilgore outlined a vision that calls for the nation’s biggest government utility to idle at least 1,000 megawatts of coal generation — or more than 7 percent of its biggest source of power — by 2015.

TVA directors approved plans here Friday to move ahead with reviving work on its unfinished Bellefonte Nuclear Plant in Alabama and restructuring electric rates next spring to encourage distributors — and ultimately customers — to limit consumption during peak demand periods.

“We want to be a leader in cleaner energy and cleaner air, and that means we will have to be less reliant upon coal,” Kilgore said. “That doesn’t mean that coal is going away, but we are looking at idling some of our coal units pretty soon.”

TVA got more than 60 percent of its electricity last year from the 59 coal-fired units at its 11 fossil plants across Tennessee, Alabama and Kentucky.

Before now, the only TVA-built plant to ever close was the Watts Bar Steam Plant in Rhea County, which was shuttered in 1983.

Kilgore said he wants to meet with employees who might be displaced and community leaders where coal plant closings could reduce TVA in-lieu-of-tax payments before announcing which coal plants will be closed. But some of the potential units on the chopping block could include the oldest units at the Widows Creek plant near Stevenson, Ala., the John Sevier plant near Rogersville, Tenn., and the Johnsville plant in West Tennessee.


Environmental groups gave mixed reviews to TVA’s decision to phase out some coal units and build more nuclear plants and promote more conservation.

Stephen Smith, executive director for the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, said shutting down the old coal plants “is absolutely the right path for TVA” and he applauded the agency for boosting its budget for energy conservation by nearly a third next year to $135 million.

“We believe there are a significant number of older, inefficient, dirty plants, even beyond the 1,000 megawatts that TVA is committing to retire today, that TVA should consider phasing out,” he said.

TVA is facing state and private lawsuits, regulatory orders and potential congressional action to force costly limits on air emissions and carbon releases from its coal plants.

During Friday’s public hearing, anti-nuclear activists blasted TVA for putting $248 million in next year’s budget to move ahead with reviving the Bellefonte Nuclear Plant in Hollywood, Ala., where construction was halted in 1988.

TVA’s new vision

* Less coal: Shut down at least 1,000 megawatts, or 7 percent, of TVA’s coal-fired generation by 2015

* More nuclear: Revive construction of the Unit 1 reactor at the Bellefonte plant in Hollywood, Ala., finish building a second reactor at the Watts Bar plant near Spring City, Tenn., and make upgrades to existing plants to make TVA the national leader in new nuclear generation.

* More conservation: Reduce electricity consumption and peak demand by at least 3.5 percent from what it otherwise would be from new pricing schedules and conservation incentives to make TVA the leader in energy efficiency among Southeast utilities

Source: Tennessee Valley Authority

“Nuclear power is not safe, it’s not reliable, and it’s way too expensive,” said Sandra Kurtz, a Chattanooga member of the Bellefonte Efficiency and Sustainability Team, a citizens group opposed to building more nuclear plants.

But TVA Chairman Dennis Bottorff said nuclear power is the lowest cost option for power generation and doesn’t emit carbon dioxides linked with global warming.

“We think we have the best team in the country to plan, build and license these plants on time and on budget,” Bottorff said, pointing to TVA’s success in restarting its Browns Ferry units in the 1990s and the current effort to complete Watts Bar Unit 2 by 2012.

TVA estimates it will cost between $4.3 billion and $4.7 billion to finish Bellefonte Unit 1.


In TVA’s $11.8 billion budget for fiscal 2011 adopted Friday, TVA projects flat power demand. The slowdown in the growth of power consumption should be aided next April when TVA plans to change the way it prices electricity for the first time since 1992.

TVA will charge distributors both for their monthly peak and their overall monthly consumption. Such demand and energy charges will be changed according to the season and ultimately according to the time of day to charge more during peak demand periods.

TVA Vice President John Trawick said the change next spring will allow consumers to cut their electric bills by changing when clothes or dishes are washed at home or when electric-powered machines operate in factories.

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Dan_DHRT said...

Coal vs uranium. Both are non-renewable energy resources. Coal polutes greatly immediately. Uranium have more destructive pollution potential.

Sure, we need electricity to live. However, what if we reduced the amount we use? Would TVA not be able to reduce the number of coal or uranium or natural gas power plants?

And, what about TVA investing in renewable energy resources like solar and wind generating electricity to reduce the number of coal and uranium power plants?

We can't individually control what TVA does; however, we can control how much electricty and clean water and home heating and hoem cooling and water heating we use in our home by doing more of the simple and no cost / low cost steps to reduce our own utility bills, save money and perhaps, perhaps, reduce the number of polluting power plants which are needed. Free collections of such energy and water savings ideas are out there.

The above, as one example, is a free collection containing more than 530 (yes, five hundred and thirty) energy and clean water savings tips, including:

  • 440+ are simple and easy to do
  • 300+ cost absolutely no money
  • 125+ cost next to nothing
  • 145+ clean water saving tips
  • 115+ electricity savings tips
  • 110+ winter heating savings tips
  • 80+ summer cooling saving tips

I hope this helps. Dan

August 21, 2010 at 8:28 a.m.
DocForesight said...

@Dan, with all due respect, people are smart enough to self-enforce their power use -- it's called "paying your bill". If your bill gets too high, you reduce your use to match your desired expense for power. You don't need the Power Police to monitor your life.

As to solar and wind, since they are intermittent, unreliable, weather-dependent and have a low capacity factor they require some sort of reliable back-up. That normally is supplied by a coal or natural gas-fired plant. No coal plants are shut down due to an increase in solar or wind generation.

Get up to speed with nuclear power plants that consume used nuclear fuel - Integral Fast Reactor or Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactor (LFTR) With uranium, just don't eat it and you'll be fine.

August 21, 2010 at 7:19 p.m.

Can you find in the TVA Act, (the legal basis for everything TVA does), anything that says "coal", "nuclear", "gas-fired", "solar", "wind" or any other exotic power producers? Nothing but hydroelectric which gradually is being phased out because of siltation. That’s right, the lakes are filling up with silt making them useless for both electricity production and flood control.

If you can connect the dots between the Act and what TVA is doing today please let me know. Personally, I think TVA is technically in default, that it has far outstripped its authority. Of course, TVA headquarters is supposed to be in Muscle Shoals, Alabama too. That is what the law says.

Follow my comments on TVA’s latest commitments soon to be posted on Norsworthy Opinion

Ernest Norsworthy

August 22, 2010 at 1:16 p.m.
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