❝ After spending more than 40 years and $5 billion on an unfinished nuclear power plant in northeastern Alabama, the nation’s largest federal utility is preparing to sell the property at a fraction of its cost.
The Tennessee Valley Authority has set a minimum bid of $36.4 million for its Bellefonte Nuclear Plant and the 1,600 surrounding acres of waterfront property on the Tennessee River. The buyer gets two unfinished nuclear reactors, transmission lines, office and warehouse buildings, eight miles of roads, a 1,000-space parking lot and more…
❝ The sale is bittersweet for site manager Jim Chardos, who went to work at Bellefonte in 1994 expecting it to be finished as a nuclear power plant. All these years later, he commutes 90 minutes each way to work to oversee a plant that has never been stocked with radioactive fuel or used either of its reactors to generate a single watt of electricity.
Work began at Bellefonte in the mid-’70s on the backside of the nuclear energy boom in the United States, Chardos said. The utility initially planned to construct four reactors at the site, but demand for power in the region never met those early expectations and work halted in 1988. A series of starts and stops preceded TVA’s decision earlier this year to sell Bellefonte.
“If you’re going to make 1,200 megawatts you need to sell it to somebody, and if there’s no need for it you’re not going to finish,” he said. “And that’s really what’s happened.”
I advocated for nuclear power plants for over a half-century. Started-out working for a subcontractor/vendor and learned enough about the process to consider it worthy. Ideally – which means “almost impossible in the United States – nuclear power plants can produce lots of affordable electricity over their lifespan. Radioactive fuel can be recycled. Safe construction is not rocket science.
Just not in the United States. and in recent years, the diminishing cost and alternatives – especially solar electricity – makes the question moot. Nuclear power can’t compete in our markets.