Bellefonte construction permits reinstated

19 February 2009

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has decided to reinstate the construction permits for Tennessee Valley Authority’s (TVA’s) two unfinished units at the Bellefonte site in North Alabama.

In 2006, TVA decided not to complete construction of the two 1213MWe pressurised water reactors and asked the NRC to withdraw the construction permits for the units. Then in August last year, due to changing power-generating economics, the utility decided that completion of the units might be viable and requested reinstatement of the permits.

In the reinstated permits the reactors were classified as “terminated” in status, which recognises that the structures, equipment and records have not been continuously maintained. TVA asked the NRC to reinstate the permits with the reactors classified as “deferred,” but they denied the request. “The Commission Policy Statement on Deferred Plants is clear and demanding with respect to the condition of the facilities and the quality of plant records. The Bellefonte reactors simply do not meet that threshold right now,” said NRC chairman Dale Klein.

TVA now needs to re-establish physical condition and record quality at the Bellefonte reactors before their status' can be changed to “deferred,” an approach which provides public assurance that any potential issues will be addressed before TVA can move forward.

The construction permits for Bellefonte’s two reactors were granted in 1974. By 1988, when TVA deferred completion of the plant, unit 1 was almost 90% complete, and unit 2 was about 58% complete. If the Bellefonte construction permits had remained in place they would have expired in 2011 and 2014, respectively.

In October 2007 TVA, along with the NuStart Energy consortium, submitted a combined construction and operating licence (COL) application to the NRC for two Westinghouse AP1000 units at the site. When the utility asked for the permits to be reinstated it said that this COL application remained its “primary option” for the site.

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