TVA mulls potential sale of Bellefonte plant

18 February 2016

The Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) has invited stakeholders to express their views on a potential sale of the Bellefonte nuclear power plant site in Alabama with its two partially constructed reactors and associated facilities.

Bellefonte's two partially completed PWRs (Image: TVA)

Work on Bellefonte's two Babcock & Wilcox pressurized water reactors was suspended in 1988, with units 1 and 2 about 88% and 58% complete, respectively. In the interim, many of components have been sold or transferred and others would now need to be replaced or upgraded. Unit 1 is now thought to be no more than 55% complete.

The TVA submitted a combined construction and operation licence (COL) application to the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) for two new AP1000 units - Bellefonte 3 and 4 - in 2007. The following year it asked the NRC to reinstate the construction permits for units 1 and 2 and deferred the COL application for unis 3 and 4. The NRC reinstated the construction permits in February 2009, and in 2011 the TVA announced that it planned to complete Bellefonte 1.

At the time, completion of Bellefonte 1 - at an estimated cost of $4.9 billion - was seen as a more cost-effective option than building a new AP1000 reactor at the site. By the 2014financial year, the estimated cost of completion had risen to between $7.5 billion and $8.7 billion.

Work was not envisaged to resume on Bellefonte 1 until the completion of another suspended TVA nuclear plant, Watts Bar 2. Fuel loading began at Watts Bar 2 in December 2015, and the unit is scheduled to begin operations this year.

Completion of Bellefonte 1 did not feature in the TVA's 2015 integrated resource plan, in which the authority determined that it would not be likely to need such a large generation facility for the next 20 years. Now the TVA says it is considering declaring the site, on the Guntersville Reservoir, near Hollywood, Alabama, as surplus and may sell it. It is seeking views from the public, interested stakeholders and other public entities about such a sale. "The question is whether TVA is serving the public well by retaining control of the Bellefonte site if others will make more beneficial use of it," the authority said.

Some of the site infrastructure, including office buildings, warehouses, switchyards and the land itself would support different uses including industrial, commercial and residential development, the TVA said. The TVA said it has "occasionally" been approached about leasing or selling the plant site since construction was halted in 1988, and has also been approached about selling the site to allow others to complete the nuclear power plant.

If the site is declared surplus by the TVA board of directors, it will likely be offered for sale to the "highest qualified bidder" through a public auction with an established minimum price. Some of the existing environmental reviews including environmental impact statements supporting the construction and operation of the nuclear plant may need to be updated, and additional environmental reviews would have to be conducted to support non-nuclear uses. Any sale would be conditional on the completion of all necessary reviews, the TVA said.

Interested parties have until 18 March to submit their comments about the potential sale and appropriate uses of the site.

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News