TVA to abandon new reactor design at Bellefonte

TVA to abandon new reactor design at Bellefonte

February 12th, 2016 by Dave Flessner in Business Around the Region

The idle Bellefonte Nuclear Plant is seen in Hollywood, Ala., June 8, 2006. The Tennessee Valley Authority board meets Thursday, Sept. 27, 2007, in Huntsville, where it is expected to give the green light to building up to two new nuclear reactors at the mothballed Bellefonte site near Scottsboro. (AP Photo/Huntsville Times, Dave Dieter, File)

Photo by Dave Dieter

The Tennessee Valley Authority is giving on a nearly decade-old plan to pursue the next generation of major nuclear reactors at one of its nuclear sites in Alabama.

TVA said today it will tell regulators it is giving up its plans to build a pair of Westinghouse AP1000 reactors at the Bellefonte Nuclear Power Plant in Hollywood, Ala. TVA is facing a deadline today to tell its future plans to the Atomic Safety and Licensing Board of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

TVA President Bill Johnson said Thursday that TVA is preserving the option of finishing the original two reactors at Bellefonte, but even those plans are still under review. A long-range power plan finished last year for TVA projects that TVA won't need the power from another nuclear plant like Bellefonte for more than two decades.

"We have no plans to restart construction (which has been suspended at Bellefonte for the past two decades)," Johnson told reporters. "We're spending a maintenance amount on that asset just for physical security, but that is not a big drag on our costs."

Johnson said power demand is growing at a sluggish pace and additional natural gas plants and renewable energy sources should meet the projected demand after TVA finishes its Watts Bar Nuclear Plant this year.

Environmental groups have opposed construction of a new nuclear reactor at Bellefonte and intervened in the NRC review of the AP1000 design.

"We welcome TVA's decision to slow the financial hemorrhage at Bellefonte 3 and 4," Dr. Stephen A. Smith, executive director of the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, said in a statement today. "We strongly encourage TVA to go ahead and close the books on the 42-year old Bellefonte 1 and 2 reactor units, which will never be completed, saving more money and allowing Northern Alabama to move into the 21st century with new economic opportunities like Google, energy efficiency and clean solar power."

TVA's work at Bellefonte has been challenged before the Atomic Safety and Licensing Board by the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League and the Bellefonte Efficiency and Sustainability Team/Mothers Against Tennessee River Radiation. Such groups appealed to the TVA board Thursday to give up on Bellefonte units 3 and 4.

"It's time to quit wasting money pursuing this project that TVA can't afford," said Garry Morgan, a Scottsboro resident and critic of the Bellefonte project.

TVA continues to work to finish the Unit 2 reactor at the Watt Bar Nuclear Plant this spring and Johnson said TVA is still developing a site in Oak Ridge to possibly build small modular reactors.

"This filing does not impact Bellefonte 1 and 2 as the company continues to consider options for those units," TVA spokesman Scott Brooks said.