TVA eyes future of mothballed nuclear plant

Alabama leaders want buyer to revive Bellefonte

This 2006 file photo shows the idle Bellefonte Nuclear Plant in Hollywood, Ala.
This 2006 file photo shows the idle Bellefonte Nuclear Plant in Hollywood, Ala.

Alabama political and business leaders are urging the Tennessee Valley Authority to find a buyer for the Bellefonte Nuclear Power Plant that will complete construction of the mothballed facility and operate the Alabama facility as a nuclear power plant.

In public comments released today by the Tennessee Valley Authority, Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley, U.S. Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., and U.S. Rep. Mo Brooks, R-Ala., all encouraged TVA to sell Belllefonte to an entity that would complete and operate the nuclear plant. Similar comments in favor of finding a buyer to finish Bellefonte were voice by elected officials from the Jackson County Commission, the Jackson County Economic Development Authority and the town of Hollywood, Ala. where the facility is located.

Former Chattanooga developer Franklin L. Haney proposed a $10 billion plan to TVA three years ago to buy and finish Bellefonte, provided TVA would commit to buying or selling the power it generated and the new owners could take advantage of federal tax incentives then available for building new plants.

TVA rejected that offer and TVA's long-range power plan known as an Integrated Resource Plan adopted last year by TVA saw no need for the power Bellefonte would generate. In response, the utility began a process this year to possibly sell the facility through a public bidding process.

Haney has not expressed any recent interest in buying Bellefonte, but other utilities or investors might if they figured they could finish the incomplete units at a price below what it costs to build other new sources of electricity generation.

The first step toward any sale was to take public comments about selling Bellefonte, which TVA did during February and March. A total of 79 persons or groups sent comments to TVA about the future of Bellefonte and the proposed sale of the 1,600-acre site.

Anti-nuclear groups want TVA to sell Bellefonte for other energy or development uses, and not pursue trying to finish the incomplete Babcock & Wilcox pressurized water reactors. The Sierra Club urged TVA to convert the site to a large solar farm and the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy suggested TVA withdraw its construction license for the two reactors and sell the property for the development of renewable energy.

Nuclear power critics note that Bellefonte was designed in the 1960s and some key equipment was stripped from the plant more than a decade ago when TVA thought it was going to scrap both of the reactors. New nuclear plants being built in Georgia and South Carolina are using more modern designs.

TVA spokesman Scott Fiedler said the TVA board could next consider a measure at its May 5th meeting in Paris, Tenn., to declare Bellefonte surplus and initiate a public auction process to allow interested buyers to bid on the mothballed plant.

TVA began building Bellefonte in 1974 but suspended work in 1988. TVA considered plans to convert Bellefonte to a natural gas plant, to sell the nuclear facility to the Department of Energy to make bomb materials and to use part of the site to test a new nuclear plant design. But all of those options were ultimately rejected.

The site currently contains two unfinished nuclear units, plus a number of supporting structures, including transmission switchyards, warehouses and parking lots, suitable for a variety of industrial, commercial or residential uses.

Any transfer of the nuclear plant license to another owner would have to be approved by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

Read comments about the future use of Bellefonte Nuclear Power Plant: