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The Tennessee Valley Authority has granted an extension to developer Franklin L. Haney to complete his $111 million purchase of the unfinished Bellefonte Nuclear Power Plant in Alabama.

Haney said Friday he appreciates TVA's work with him in transferring the 1,300-acre riverfront site in Hollywood, Alabama, where TVA began building the nuclear power plant in 1974. Haney said he is confident he will soon close on the plant purchase and ultimately complete the twin-reactor plant to generate power at a competitive price to attract plenty of customers.

TVA spokesman Jim Hopson said TVA has extended the agreement with Haney's Nuclear Development LLC from the original deadline next Wednesday to Nov. 30 to finalize the purchase. The 16-day extension was requested by Haney, who two years ago emerged as the highest bidder for buying the assets of the mothballed, unfinished plant in Northeast Alabama.

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Franklin Haney, of the Franklin Haney Company, speaks with Tom Decosimo before the event. The Electric Power Board of Chattanooga unveiled its new 100 kilowatt, 4-hour, vanadium redox flow battery made by UniEnergy Technologies of Mukilteo, Washington on September 22, 2017.

The purchase agreement Haney signed on Nov. 14, 2016 initially gave the former real estate developer two years to complete the purchase of the Bellefonte assets from TVA. Under the purchase agreement, Haney made a $22 million down payment for the unfinished reactors and the supporting cooling towers, switch yards and office facilities at Bellefonte.

Haney said he has the other $89 million to complete the Bellefonte acquisition, but a number of legal and regulatory issues are pushing back the completion of the deal for a couple more weeks.

"The money is in the bank, but the lawyers need to still work out some of the (legal, regulatory and licensing) issues," Haney said.

Haney said he is personally funding most of the cost and work on Bellefonte so far, including more than $30 million spent to pay TVA to maintain the Bellefonte assets over the past two years and to hire engineering firms and consultants to study how the two Babcock Wilcox reactors could be completed. Haney is trying to be the first individual in the world to own a nuclear power plant, but he said he is employing nuclear engineering experts to build and run the facility.

Haney hired former TVA Nuclear Chief Preston Swafford and former TVA Chief Operating Officer Bill McCollum to help oversee the assessment and work plan to finish the plant and market its power. Haney's Nuclear Development LLC has also hired the Montreal, Canada-based SNC Lavalin to work on preparing plans to finish Bellefonte and has signed a letter of intent with SNC Lavalin Nuclear USA, a newly created subsidiary, to provide engineering, procurement and construction management services to complete Bellefonte Unit 1.

Nuclear Development LLC is trying to arrange financing and secure customers for the 2,400 megawatts of electricity that the twin-reactor plant would be capable of generating if both units are completed. In 2014, Haney secured $2.3 billion of federal tax credits allocated for new nuclear power plants and he is working to secure up to $5 billion in federal loan guarantees from the U.S. Department of Energy.

"We've been working day and night on this project for two years because it has such a great potential for thousands of jobs in the Valley and power that could be generated for an attractive price," Haney said. "We have been working well with TVA and we appreciate their willingness to extend this for a few more days."

Haney has yet to finalize contracts with purchasers of the power Bellefonte would generate, but he said he is confident once the plant project moves ahead the attractive costs of the power it will generate will secure plenty of buyers for the electricity.

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"We have a lot of people talking with us and I think there are a lot of parties that will sign up as soon as we close (on the purchase and financing)," Haney said. "Our rates should be $30 to $40 (per megawatt) cheaper than anybody else."

Anti-nuclear groups, however, question whether a plant that has been under construction, mothballed and even partially dismantled over the past 44 years could still be finished.

TVA began building Bellefonte in 1974 but suspended construction in 1988 when the growth in TVA power demand slowed and the cost of completing the reactors increased. At one point, TVA estimated that Unit 1 was nearly 90 percent complete and the second reactor was more than 50 percent complete. But equipment and regulatory changes since then will require considerable additional work to get the plant finished and licensed by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

TVA briefly considered the Bellefonte plant for the next generation of Westinghouse AP1000 reactors, but later scrapped those plans as well. TVA has maintained the construction permits for both reactors at Bellefonte, which the NRC would have to approve to be transferred to Nuclear Development LLC.

If construction is resumed on the two reactors, Haney said 8,000 to 10,000 temporary construction and related jobs would be created, which has spurred Congressional representatives in Alabama and Tennessee to write letters to DOE in support of Haney's request for federal loan guarantees.

Contact Dave Flessner at dflessner@timesfreepress.com or at 757-6340.

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