After 47 Years, US Power Company Abandons Still-Unfinished $6 Billion Nuclear Power Plant


America's federally-owned electric utility, the Tennessee Valley Authority, has spent billions of dollars with nothing to show for it, reports the Chattanooga Times Free Press.

"Nearly 47 years after construction began on the Bellefonte Nuclear Power Plant in Northeast Alabama, the Tennessee Valley Authority is giving up its construction permit for America's biggest unfinished nuclear plant and abandoning any plans to complete the twin-reactor facility..." Giving up the construction permit at Bellefonte signals the end of any new nuclear plant construction at TVA with only seven of the 17 nuclear reactors the utility once planned to build ever completed.... Since the 1970s, a total of 95 nuclear reactors proposed to be built by U.S. utilities have been canceled due to rising construction costs, slowing power demand and cheapening power alternatives.

The NRC now regulates 93 remaining commercial nuclear reactors at 56 nuclear power plants, including TVA's Sequoyah and Watts Bar nuclear plants in East Tennessee and the Browns Ferry nuclear plant in Athens, Alabama. Collectively, those nuclear plants provide more than 40% of TVA's power and over 20% of the nation's electricity supply... TVA spokesman Jim Hopson said in the past two decades, the growth in power demand in the Tennessee Valley has continued to slow as more energy efficiency measures have been adopted and the price of natural gas, solar power and additional hydroelectric generation has declined in competition with nuclear.


Thanks to long-time Slashdot reader The Real Dr John for sharing the story. And today the Chattanooga Times Free Press opinions editor offered this suggestion: TVA still owns the 1,600-acre site, as well as the plant that has never — and likely now will never — generate the first spark of nuclear-produced electricity. But that doesn't mean it can't make power some other way. A gas plant? Uggh. A wind field? Seems unlikely given the stillness of North Alabama. A solar plant? That could be more of a possibility. All of the transmission equipment and the electrical grid is at the ready... By now — after siting, building, scrapping, building again, abandoning, putting up for sale, agreeing to sell for pennies on the dollar and finally going to court to defend not selling the Bellefonte Nuclear Plant — TVA ratepayers and taxpayers have lost somewhere between $6 billion (according to TVA) and $9 billion (according to a 2018 letter from five congressmen)... TVA spokesman Jim Hopson said Wednesday that TVA is making no decisions immediately. "But we're not taking anything off the table," he added... Hopson said TVA's May 2021 "strategic intent and guiding principles" notes the utility has solar commitments to date of more than 2,300 megawatts of solar capacity expected to come online by the end of 2023. Including those projects, TVA expects to add 10,000 megawatts of solar power by 2035 — a 24-fold increase from today.

That 10,000 megawatts of solar power would be equal to more than eight would-be Bellefonte reactors.