The Tennessee Valley Authority will soon decide whether to move forward on restarting work at an old nuclear plant in Alabama, southwest of Chattanooga. But a watchdog group says it wouldn’t be worth the trouble to salvage TVA’s Bellefonte plant, which has sat unfinished for decades.
TVA estimates it could bring Bellefonte online by around 2020 for a cost of about $5 billion. But critics doubt it will come in on budget or on schedule.
The Southern Alliance for Clean Energy says there are issues with concrete cracking at the site. In a report for the group, nuclear engineer Arnold Gundersen says that concern has been raised by a project manager with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. Gundersen says the concrete was poured in the 1970s, and isn’t the kind of problem you can overhaul.
“You can always replace a pipe or you can always replace a wire, but concrete is degrading, and this concrete’s got a 50 year head start before the plant ever starts to operate.”
But TVA argues the group is exaggerating its worries. Officials say the concrete at Bellefonte was engineered to last, has been tested thoroughly for damage, and shown no signs of failure.
Earlier this week TVA said it will miss a construction deadline at Watts Bar, another old nuclear plant that had been put on hold. Officials say that should have no effect on their timeframe for Bellefonte.