The future of one of America's biggest unfinished construction projects will remain in limbo for at least a few more months while the Tennessee Valley Authority considers its options.
Utility officials said Tuesday they are delaying a planned April 16 board decision whether to finish the original reactor or build a new one at the Bellefonte Nuclear Plant in Hollywood, Ala.
"It's an important decision for TVA and its customers, so we want to take the time to make sure we make a prudent decision," TVA spokesman Terry Johnson said.
An environmental assessment released last year found that finishing the Unit 1 reactor begun in 1974 would be cheaper than building a next-generation Westinghouse AP-1000 reactor.
TVA in 2006 said it would build the new AP-1000. But as the projected cost rose above $3 billion, officials began rethinking.
The utility had given up its construction permit for the original reactors in 2006, but the Nuclear Regulatory Commission agreed last year to reinstate it so work could resume.
Supporters and opponents of the Bellefonte reactors said Tuesday that TVA is wise to take more time with its decision.
Westinghouse still is responding to NRC concerns about the shield building for the new AP-1000. And the Senate hasn't yet confirmed four new TVA board members who must decide which way to go at Bellefonte.
Goodrich "Dus" Rogers, president of the Jackson County Economic Development Authority, said people who live around the site want TVA to build both reactors.
"Sooner is better than later, but we want TVA to make the right decision the first time," he said.
Sandra Kurtz, a member of the anti-nuclear Bellefonte Efficiency and Sustainability Team, said her group is "very pleased" that TVA is taking more time.
"BEST hopes that with a careful assessment, the TVA board members will see that there are safer and less expensive options for power that don't leave a legacy of radioactive wastes for our children," she said.