TVA officials said the utility's directors agreed last week to pay Bechtel Power Corp. and Stone and Webster Construction Inc. $15.
5 million each plus another $11.3 million in fees to settle a legal dispute.
Louise Gorenflo, a leader of an anti-nuclear power group called the Bellefonte Efficiency and Sustainability Team, told the Chattanooga Times Free Press that paying bonuses on a project that ran over budget raises questions.
"It really doesn't make sense for TVA to be paying out bonuses when it doesn't look like they gave TVA quality work," Gorenflo said.
The contractors initially sought an additional $76 million in performance bonuses. TVA had said the contractors were due only $24 million.
TVA Senior Vice President Ashok Bhatnagar said last week that the $42 million "is a fair settlement."
The decision comes at a time when TVA electric rates are set to increase by 20 percent. TVA officials have said the hike that takes effect Oct. 1 is due to higher fuel costs and a drought that makes it difficult to produce cheap hydroelectric power.
The Unit 1 reactor was repaired on time and restarted in May 2007, but the project cost exceeded TVA's original forecast by $90 million. It had been shut down in 1985 for safety reasons.
Based in Knoxville, the federally operated utility supplies electricity to about 8.8 million consumers in Tennessee, Kentucky, Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia, North Carolina and Virginia.