published Saturday, October 1st, 2011

Bellefonte Nuclear Plant gains permit extension

The two cooling towers at the TVA Bellefonte Nuclear power plant in Hollywood, Ala., tower 500 feet above the ground. 
Staff File Photo
The two cooling towers at the TVA Bellefonte Nuclear power plant in Hollywood, Ala., tower 500 feet above the ground. Staff File Photo
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TVA's planned completion of Bellefonte Nuclear Plant in Alabama got another green light from federal nuclear regulators Friday, the eve of the plant's original 37-year-old construction permit expiration.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission extended the permit, first issued in 1974, and it is now valid until Oct. 1, 2020.

"It's really a paperwork kind of thing," NRC spokesman Roger Hannah said Friday, noting the permit is classified in "deferred status."

"They still will have to provide more data and do a number of things to get the permit upgraded to active status," he said. "And, at this point, they cannot begin construction until the permit is put at active status."

TVA spokesman Ray Golden said the deferred status means TVA cannot physically do any construction work toward completion of Bellefonte, but workers can use the time to complete design and procurement work there, and they can continue to refine the licensing for the plant.

"We have to give the NRC four months notice before construction begins," he said, adding that in August the TVA board specifically asked -- and TVA President and CEO Tom Kilgore has said -- that Bellefonte construction not begin until fuel is loaded at Watts Bar.

Watts Bar will not be completed until sometime in 2013, TVA has said.

Utility officials also have said they hope to complete Bellefonte as soon as 2018.

Bellefonte Nuclear Plant has been idle in Jackson County, Ala., for several years.

But TVA in late 2008 asked the NRC to reinstate the construction permit that the utility had withdrawn two years before.

NRC reinstated the permit to "deferred" status in 2009 -- good until today.

TVA began building the plant in 1974 but suspended work when power demand slowed in 1985. In 2006, the utility began gutting the plant, which its officials had once said was 80 percent complete.

In August, TVA's board voted to refit and finish the plant, now considered about 50 percent complete.

TVA already has invested about $6 billion in Bellefonte and expects to spent nearly $5 billion more to complete the plant and one reactor.

Citizens opposing the plant's completion were not happy with the NRC action Friday.

"I'm complaining all over the place about this," said Garry Morgan, who lives about four miles from the plant and is a member of several citizens and environmental groups who have filed a lawsuit over the once-canceled construction permit.

The NRC's 2009 permit reinstatement "ignores the obvious legal and scientific deficiencies of the obsolete, unsafe 1970s era nuclear construction permit. Their actions ignore citizen safety," Morgan said.

The plant is expected to supply the power needs for about 750,000 homes, according to TVA officials.

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about Pam Sohn...

Pam Sohn has been reporting or editing Chattanooga news for 25 years. A Walden’s Ridge native, she began her journalism career with a 10-year stint at the Anniston (Ala.) Star. She came to the Chattanooga Times Free Press in 1999 after working at the Chattanooga Times for 14 years. She has been a city editor, Sunday editor, wire editor, projects team leader and assistant lifestyle editor. As a reporter, she also has covered the police, ...

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GarryMorgan said...

On Oct. 10, 2011 the TVA submitted a letter to the NRC stating in part the following: "The only modification proposed by TVA to the existing Construction Permit (CPPR-122) is an extension of the latest completion date. As stated previously, this extension would not allow any work to be performed of a type not previously authorized by the existing construction permit. As TVA is not seeking authorization for activities not previously authorized, this request does not involve a significant increase in the probability or consequences of an accident previously evaluated, create the possibility of a new or different kind of accident from any accident previously evaluated, or involve a significant reduction in a margin of safety." That is a false statement.

The nuclear facility was stripped of its steam generators, crucial high pressure tubing related to the condensers and who knows what other crucial equipment. No quality controls existed during the 2 year period of the cancelled, non existing nuclear construction permit.

Remarkable and appalling are the TVA and NRC's staff and officials attitude and denial that the plant was cannibalized, stripped and all required nuclear program quality control measures and standards were abandoned for the 2 year period when there was no nuclear construction permit. Why, must be the question asked do TVA and NRC officials completely disregard nuclear safety law, standards and required protocols as a result of what has occurred at the Bellefonte Facility in regards to the plants cancelled construction permit and the subsequent plant stripping/cannibalization of crucial equipment at Bellefonte.

October 1, 2011 at 9:50 p.m.
GarryMorgan said...

The Oct. 10, 2011 date above should be On Oct. 10, 2010.

October 1, 2011 at 10:33 p.m.
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