TVA to sell Bellafonte NPP

10 May 2016

The board of the US Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) has voted to sell to the highest bidder its Bellefonte NPP site in northern Alabama, with its two partially built reactors and other infrastructure. As well as two partially built nuclear reactors, on-site infrastructure includes switchyards, office buildings, warehouses, cooling towers, water pumping stations and railroad spurs.

TVA CEO Bill Johnson told a meeting of the board on 5 May that, against a background of lower energy demand and changing usage patterns, TVA's 2015 Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) determined that it will not need to build any new large-scale baseload capacity for at least the next 20 years. TVA had kept Bellefonte as an option for future nuclear generation, but Johnson said that in light of the IRP, the "time had come" to consider whether TVA would better serve the public by retaining the site or selling it.

TVA purchased Bellefonte in 1974 and began construction of two B&W pressurized water reactors. Work was suspended in 1988, when unit 1 was about 90% complete and unit 2 58% complete and subsequently many of the units' components were transferred or sold. Other would need upgrading or replacing. TVA said it has spent more than $4bn at Bellefonte over the last four decades. The US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) reinstated the construction permits for the units in 2009.

In 2007, TVA and the NuStart consortium filed a construction and operating licence application with the NRC for two Westinghouse AP1000 units at the site, but the application was suspended indefinitely since 2010. The site will be offered at auction to qualified bidders subject to a minimum price. An independent appraisal valued the site at $36.4m. To qualify, bidders must demonstrate their financial worthiness and submit their plans to develop the site, whether or not that includes completing the units.

The winner will be expected to meet some of the costs associated with the auction. Some of the existing environmental reviews including environmental impact statements supporting the construction and operation of the nuclear plant may need to be updated, and additional environmental reviews would have to be conducted to support non-nuclear uses.

Phoenix Energy of Nevada said on 6 May that it will try to purchase Bellefonte. Managing partner Michael Dooley said the company wants to use the mothballed Nuclear Plant site as the base for new, non-nuclear generation. The company has developed a system that uses electromagnetic induction energy fields to heat water indirectly and produce steam that would turn turbines, Dooley said, and it already has "detailed plans" for Bellefonte. He added that a power plant with two 1,200MWe units using the technology could be constructed and brought online for less than $300m.

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