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Construction stopped at the Bellefonte Nuclear Power Plant in Hollywood, Ala., in 1988, but a Nevada energy group wants to revive the site for a new type of power generation. The firm is offering $38 million to buy the site, only a fraction of the $5 billion TVA has spent to building and maintain the site over the past 42 years.

HOLLYWOOD, Ala. — Want to buy nuclear power plant? The Tennessee Valley Authority could have a deal for you.

But even after more than 42 years of construction, the Bellefonte Nuclear Power Plant still needs some work before it can generate any power.

TVA is soliciting bids from those interested in buying most of the 1,600-are Bellefonte site on a peninsula here on the Tennessee River. TVA has hired a Marlborough, Mass.-based consulting firm, Concentric Energy Advisors, to help market the sale of Bellefonte for potential use by another power producer or reuse for commercial, residential or recreational uses.

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An inside view of the cooling towers at the Tennessee Valley Authority's unfinished Bellefonte nuclear power plant. Staff File Photo by Matt Fields-Johnson
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TVA will receive bid proposals from those who might be interested in buying the site this month and plans to pick a winning bid for the sale by the end of October. The initial indicator bids are due Monday.

TVA has set a minimum bid of $36.4 million for Bellefonte — the appraised value of the property. That's only a fraction of the more than $5 billion TVA has invested in the nuclear plant over the past 42 years of construction and maintenance of the plant.

"This plant is between the Google data center in Bridgeport and the Huntsville megasite (targeted for automobile or major manufacturing development) so we think there is a lot of potential for a site like this," TVA spokesman Scott Fiedler told reporters during a tour today of Bellefonte to help promote its sale. "We'll be going through a bid process, but the interest has been very impressive so far and we're excited about selling the property."

The federal utility, which began building Bellefonte in 1974 when power demand in the Tennessee Valley was growing by more than 5 percent a year, never finished the twin-reactor complex because of a slowdown in electricity consumption in TVA's 7-state region. TVA suspended construction in 1988 and at one point considered abandoning the original Babcock and Wilcox units and converting the plant site for use with all new next generation Westinghouse AP 1000 reactors.

But TVA has now given up on any of those reactors, although it is eager to sell to anyone who might resurrect the plant or convert it to another job-generator for Northeast Alabama.

Jim Chardos, the site director at Bellefonte who has been here for the past 22 years, said he hopes the nuclear plant can be finished.

"But we realize that facts are facts and you can't produce what you can't sell," he said. "What we want most are jobs for this region."

At one point, the Unit 1 reactor here was considered 90 percent finished and the Unit 2 reactor was half finished when work was suspended in 1988. But that was when analogue switches were still used instead of digital controls and before TVA removed some key equipment a decade ago when TVA briefly considered scrapping the plant.

TVA spends about $6.5 million a year to maintain the plant with about 45 employees and contractors, but there is not the demand for the power it could generate, according to TVA's long-range power studies.

"Even though we're seeing strong economic growth in the Valley, the demand for electricity isn't growing like it did in the past and our integrated resource plan doesn't foresee the need for baseline power generation like what Bellefonte produces anytime in the foreseeable future," Fiedler said.

TVA isn't disclosing the names of interested bidders for Bellefonte, but one company already offered $38 million to buy the site back in May, three months before TVA even began soliciting bids.

Phoenix Energy of Nevada, LLC, which was formed five years ago to develop a unique new type of power using inductive power generation, submitted the first bid this spring, which TVA said was submitted too early. The company is now preparing another offer, officials said this week.

Michael Dooley, the managing partner for the Carson City, Nev., company developing the new power plant design, said Phoenix Energy will submit a bid in the next week.

"Phoenix Energy is definitely committed to submitting the winning purchase bid and acquiring this TVA Bellefonte property," Dooley said. "For us, Phoenix Energy, and our plans, this is a once in a lifetime, maybe even two lifetimes, very special and unique opportunity, an opportunity not to be missed, which will positively impact, change and improve the energy, economic and environmental future for the United States."

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