TVA abandons plan for new reactors at shuttered Alabama power plant


HOLLYWOOD, Ala. (AP) — The Tennessee Valley Authority said Friday it is giving up on plans to construct new reactors at its unfinished, multibillion-dollar Bellefonte Nuclear Plant in northeast Alabama.

While the decision closed the door on the idea of adding next-generation reactors to the plant, a spokesman said the federal utility still was considering what to do with the two incomplete reactors at the long-mothballed power plant.

The TVA already has spent more than $4.3 billion at Bellefonte, which is located along the Tennessee River about 50 miles east of Huntsville. Work began there more than four decades ago.

Construction began at Bellefonte in 1974 during the heyday of nuclear power in the United States, but it was put on hold indefinitely in 1988. Rather than keep building, a reduced numbers of workers began simply maintaining the site.

More than a decade ago, the federal utility began reassessing the plant, which originally was designed to have two nuclear reactors. The federal utility filed an application in 2007 seeking permission from regulators to construct two more reactors at Bellefonte.

Environmentalists and other opponents filed suit to block the project in 2009, and the idea faltered as the federal utility tried to cut costs amid forecasts of sluggish growth in power demand.

In an interview by email, TVA spokesman Scott Brooks said the utility's resource plan "does not demonstrate the need for additional large generating capacity through the 2020s," so TVA was withdrawing the application to construct new units at Bellefonte.

The original reactors, neither of which is complete or capable of generating electricity, are in "preservation status" he said. TVA hasn't announced future plans for the site.

The Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, which was among the groups that sued to block new construction at Bellefonte, said in a statement that TVA should pull the plug on the entire project.

"We strongly encourage TVA to go ahead and close the books on the 42-year old Bellefonte 1 and 2 reactor units, which will never be completed, saving more money and allowing Northern Alabama to move into the 21st century with new economic opportunities" including solar power, said Stephen Smith, executive director of the group.

TVA is the nation's largest public utility, supplying power to about 9 million people in Tennessee, Alabama, Mississippi, Kentucky, Georgia, North Carolina and Virginia. It is continuing work on a new reactor at its Watts Bar plant in Spring City, Tennessee.

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