TVA keeping Bellefonte 1 and 2 option open

29 August 2008

Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) has requested that the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) reinstates the construction permits for two unfinished reactors at its Bellefonte site in Alabama. It continues to pursue regulatory approval for two further units at the site.

The NRC granted the construction permits for Bellefonte, a twin-unit pressurized water reactor plant, in 1974. By 1988, when TVA deferred completion of the plant, unit 1 was some 88% complete, and unit 2 was approximately 58% complete. In early 2006, the NRC approved a request from TVA to cancel the construction permits for the reactors.

TVA said that it was yet to make a decision on whether to complete the Bellefonte units, but having the permits reinstated now would keep the option open to complete the reactors later, should it consider it feasible to do so. A TVA spokesman told World Nuclear News that the company has budgeted $10 million this year to evaluate resuming construction of Bellefonte 1 and 2.

Ashok Bhatnagar, senior vice president of nuclear generation development and construction at TVA, said: "Reinstating the construction permits would allow TVA to place the units in a deferred status again with the NRC." He added that it would "help TVA clarify the regulatory requirements and continue to evaluate the feasibility of using units 1 and 2 to meet future base load power demand."

Meanwhile, the company said that it is continuing to support the NuStart consortium and pursue a combined construction and operating licence (COL) for two Westinghouse AP1000 reactors at Bellefonte as its "primary option" for providing needed generating capacity for the future. TVA expects the NRC to process the Bellefonte COL application, which was submitted in October 2007, in about four years. A decision to actually construct the units has yet to be made. The Bellefonte COL application has been nominated the reference application for the Westinghouse AP1000.

Bill McCollum, TVA's chief operating officer, commented, "We intend to thoroughly explore potential power supply sources to determine the best and most cost-effective methods of meeting future power needs in the Tennessee Valley." He added, "That includes energy efficiency and demand reduction, which we are pursuing aggressively, as well as adding new generating units as the demand for power grows."

McCollum said that it makes good business sense to look at existing TVA assets at Bellefonte and evaluate them along with other power supply alternatives.

He said, "As we look for the best choice for new base load generation we recognize that nuclear fuel costs are much more stable over the long term than what we've recently experienced with coal prices." He added, "Nuclear power is safe and reliable, reduces our carbon footprint and will help stabilize energy costs."