TVA gives up construction permits for Bellefonte units

September 22, 2021, 7:02AMNuclear News

Nearly 47 years after being issued construction permits for two reactors at the Bellefonte site in northeast Alabama, the Tennessee Valley Authority has decided against renewing them, essentially extinguishing any remaining hope for the project, on which the utility has reportedly spent more than $5 billion.

On September 10, TVA submitted a letter to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission withdrawing its request for an extension of the permits for the plant’s pair of unfinished Babcock & Wilcox pressurized water reactors. The permits will expire on October 1, according to the letter, which the NRC made publicly available on Monday. (Had the request been granted, the Bellefonte permits would have been extended through September 2022.)

TVA has reportedly maintained some 30 employees at Bellefonte and spent approximately $5.8 million per year over the past five years to preserve the permits during its ultimately unsuccessful effort to sell the plant to Nuclear Development LLC.

In case you missed it: Last month, a federal court sided with TVA in its legal dispute with Nuclear Development over the proposed sale of Bellefonte. The court, however, also ordered the utility to refund millions to Nuclear Development over the aborted transaction.

“The court finds that TVA did not breach its obligations under the PSA [purchase and sale agreement],” wrote U.S. District Judge Liles Burke in an August 26 filing. “With no breach, Nuclear Development is entitled neither to specific performances nor to damages, and because Nuclear Development’s claims fail, its request for a preliminary injunction must be denied. However, Nuclear Development is entitled to relief expressly contemplated by the PSA.”

That relief, according to the ruling, includes the return of Nuclear Development’s $22.2 million down payment for Bellefonte and $750,000 in compensated costs, plus prejudgment interest at an annual rate of 7.5 percent dating back to December 2018.

Background: In November 2016, TVA agreed to sell the partially completed Bellefonte plant to Nuclear Development for $111 million, concluding a six-month competitive auction process for the facility. (When TVA ceased construction at Bellefonte in 1988, Unit 1 was about 88 percent complete and Unit 2 about 58 percent complete.)

Nuclear Development—owned by Franklin Haney, a Chattanooga, Tenn., developer—was formed in 2012 for the specific purpose of acquiring, financing, completing, and operating the two Bellefonte reactors. At the time, the company said it intended to finish construction of the plant with an additional investment of $13 billion.

On November 13, 2018, Haney’s company submitted its construction permit transfer application for the reactors to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. Some two weeks later, however, just days before the deal’s scheduled closing, TVA announced that it did not intend to go through with the sale, saying that Section 101 of the Atomic Energy Act required that the construction permits be approved by the NRC before the transaction could be completed. Nuclear Development proceeded to file suit against TVA, and in response, the utility filed a motion to dismiss.

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