TVA may build two nuclear reactors

HUNTSVILLE, ALABAMA - Started in the 1970s but never finished, TVA's Bellefonte nuclear plant is a silent monument to the first wave of atomic power in the United States. It also may be part of the industry's second life.

The Tennessee Valley Authority board met in Huntsville with an agenda that includes a vote on whether to move ahead with plans to build as many as two new, advanced reactors at Bellefonte, nestled along the Tennessee River in the town of Hollywood.

TVA spokesman John Moulton declined to predict an outcome. "I cannot speak for the board," he said.

But TVA is part of a consortium of 11 companies called NuStart Energy Development that has been working to build the first new nuclear reactors in the United States in a generation at Bellefonte.

The board is expected to submit a request to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to apply for a joint construction and operating license permit for Bellefonte. NRC officials have said a review would likely take about 30 months.

NuStart, which calls itself the largest consortium of U.S. nuclear power companies, in 2005 picked Bellefonte and Grand Gulf Nuclear Station at Port Gibson, Miss., as sites for new nuclear power plants.

Even though it is expected to seek permission from regulators to build new reactors at Bellefonte, TVA said it has not decided whether to move forward with construction should the government grant approval.

The NRC granted approval in 1974 for TVA to build Bellefonte as part of a network of 17 reactors, but the blueprint fell apart as the federal utility's debt closed in on the $30 billion limit set by Congress.

Work stopped and started twice at Bellefonte before TVA decided in 1995 to mothball the plant for good.

New Jersey-based NRG Energy Inc. said it would submit the nation's first application for a new nuclear reactor in almost 30 years. The plant will be located in Texas about 90 miles southwest of Houston.

Alabama already has two nuclear plants, the TVA's Brown Ferry station near Athens and Farley, which is operated by Southern Nuclear in southeast Alabama near Dothan.


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