Decades Of On Again, Off Again For Nuclear Plant As TVA Pumps Brakes On Bellefonte

The Bellefonte Nuclear Plant in Hollywood, Alabama, includes two cooling towers and two reactors. One was only half-finished before being abandoned. The other was 90 percent complete. Credit: TVA

The Bellefonte Nuclear Plant in Hollywood, Alabama, includes two cooling towers and two reactors. One was only half-finished before being abandoned. The other was 90 percent complete. Credit: TVA

The Tennessee Valley Authority is slashing its workforce at the Bellefonte Nuclear facility in North Alabama. The plant’s reactors have never been completed. And with natural gas prices down and people generally using less power recently, the utility says there’s no need to rush.

Construction on the Bellefonte site began back in 1974. There have been several starts and stops along the way. At one point, TVA even cannibalized useful parts that could be put to work at other plants.

Then in 2011, TVA decided to finally finish Bellefonte, approving nearly $5 billion for the job. Nearly half a billion has been spent on the restart, and TVA spokesman Mike Bradley says the utility is still keeping its options open.

“This action to reduce spending is not the end of the Bellefonte project. It’s just slowing the project down so we can focus on some more near-term priorities.”

The top priority is finishing another stalled nuclear reactor in Spring City, Tennessee. Watts Bar Unit 2 has been plagued with cost overruns and delays. The completion date is now late 2015.

TVA is cutting 400 jobs at Bellefonte and keeping a skeleton crew on site to maintain the aging plant that’s still never generated any power.

Timeline of the Bellefonte Project (courtesy TVA)

1974 — Bellefonte construction permit issued and building begins

1985 — TVA defers construction of Unit 2, then about 58 percent complete

1988 — TVA defers construction of Unit 1, then about 90 percent complete

1996 — TVA studies option of converting plant to combined-cycle, natural gas

2004 —TVA joins NuStart consortium to demonstrate the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s new combined construction permit and operating license process

2005 — TVA cancels construction of Units 1 and 2 and asks Nuclear Regulatory Commission to withdraw construction permits

2005 — NuStart picks Bellefonte as site for Westinghouse AP1000 nuclear plant

2007 — TVA submits combined construction and operating license application developed under NuStart for two AP1000 reactors

2009 —NRC reinstates construction permits for Units 1 and 2 so TVA could evaluate the feasibility of completing the units 2010 — TVA board of directors authorizes additional engineering, design and licensing activities and procurement of long lead-time components for Unit 1

2010 — TVA board of directors authorizes additional engineering, design and licensing activities and procurement of long lead-time components for Unit 1

2011 — TVA board approves completion of Unit 1 as a 1,260-megawatt Babcock & Wilcox pressurized water reactor

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