TVA reconsiders Bellefonte plans

10 August 2009

The Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA), which had earlier said it was considering the construction of up to four reactors at its Bellefonte site in Alabama, is now looking into building just one unit at the site.


The partly-built Bellefonte plant (Image: TVA)
The company had been considering finishing two partly built reactors at the Bellefonte plant or constructing two new units at the site. The option of constructing all four units had also been considered.


However, the company has now said it is preparing a supplemental environmental impact statement (SEIS) to update the original 1974 environmental statement for Bellefonte Units 1 and 2 and to evaluate the new alternative of a new reactor. The SEIS will evaluate three alternatives: completing and operating one of the partially completed reactors; constructing and operating a new Westinghouse AP1000 nuclear unit; and taking no action to operate a nuclear unit at the site.


The SEIS will also evaluate the impact of refurbishing, re-energizing and upgrading several existing 161-kilovolt (kV) and 500-kV transmission lines and switchyards needed for single-unit operation.


TVA said that it has identified the need for additional base load generation in the 2017 to 2020 time frame. Completion or construction of one additional nuclear unit capable of generating some 1100 MWe within this time frame would help address the need for additional base load generation in the TVA power service area and help meet the company's goal to have at least 50% of its generation portfolio comprised of low or zero carbon-emitting sources by the year 2020.


The alternatives of completing one of the unfinished units or constructing a new AP1000 would also make use of existing assets at the Bellefonte site, TVA said.


TVA said that this evaluation will compare the environmental impacts of completing an existing unit to those of building a new unit and help the company's board of directors decide which power generating alternative is best suited as the next unit at the site. The company will invite members of the public to review and comment on the draft SEIS later this year. Following review of public comments, TVA expects to finalize the SEIS in 2010.


The Bellefonte plant was originally planned to house two reactors. Construction permits for two 1200 MW pressurized water reactors (Units 1 and 2) were issued in 1974. TVA halted construction in 1988 in response to decreased power demand after $2.5 billion had been spent, with Unit 1 some 88% completed and Unit 2 about 58% completed. The plant was maintained in deferred status until 2005 when TVA cancelled Units 1 and 2 to facilitate consideration of other uses of the site.


As part of the NuStart consortium's effort to demonstrate the feasibility of processing a combined operating license (COL) application, TVA submitted a COL application to the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) in October 2007 for the siting of two AP1000 reactors (Units 3 and 4).


In August 2008, in response to changes in power generation economics since 2005 and concerns about the availability of components for the AP1000, TVA requested reinstatement of the construction permits for Units 1 and 2 to give TVA the opportunity to evaluate the engineering and economic feasibility of completing those units. The incomplete Bellefonte nuclear power plant was officially 'terminated' in February so that it can later become 'deferred' in a unique regulatory maneuver.


NuStart announced in May that it was "consulting with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and Department of Energy to develop a process for transferring the reference combined construction and operating licence application from TVA's Bellefonte nuclear site to Southern Nuclear's Vogtle Electric Generating Plant". However, the COL application for Bellefonte 3 and 4 is still under consideration by the NRC.


TVA stressed that no decision to build any new generating capacity at the Bellefonte site has yet been made.