TVA hears opposition to MOX fuel pilot at Browns Ferry

Various citizen and public interest groups used a Nov. 15 meeting by the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) board of directors to call for increased use of renewable energy and criticize the utility’s nuclear fleet – especially a proposal to experiment with mixed-oxide (MOX) fuel at two plants.

“The costs have run totally out of control and TVA should not be a party to this,” Friends of the Earth Southeast official Tom Clements said during the meeting, which was webcast.

A TVA spokesperson said Nov. 19 that TVA has not yet agreed to participate in the MOX fuel research project, which is sponsored by the Department of Energy. If approved, the MOX fuel pilot at TVA could start in 2018, according to published reports.

MOX fuel is manufactured from plutonium recovered from used reactor fuel and it provides about 2% of the new nuclear fuel used today worldwide, according to a World Nuclear Association website.

MOX fuel has never been used in a boiling water reactor such as Browns Ferry, Clements said. A supplemental Environmental impact statement is expected to be issued on the project in early 2013, he added.

DOE is looking at experimenting with a mixture of MOX fuel along with regular low-enriched uranium [LEU] fuel at TVA’s Browns Ferry and Sequoyah nuclear plants. Browns Ferry is located near Athens, Ala. Sequoyah is located about 20 miles from Chattanooga, Tenn.

During the Nov. 15 board meeting in Rainsville, Ala., other critics of the MOX project also raised objections on health and safety concerns.

Sierra Club urges Johnson to embrace solar, wind

TVA was also urged to issue a renewable energy portfolio standard for the Tennessee Valley.

Meanwhile, the Sierra Club has sent a letter to Bill Johnson, the former Progress Energy CEO, who is scheduled to become TVA’s CEO effective in January 2013. Johnson was recently named to succeed retiring TVA CEO Tom Kilgore.

Citing TVA’s 1933 charter, the Sierra Club said that the federal utility has a mandate to be a national leader in technical innovation and environmental stewardship.

A spokesman for the Chamber of Commerce in Jackson County, Ala., said most residents there support completion of the Bellefonte nuclear power plant.

“Over the next few months TVA must decide whether to spend billions to extend the lives of its polluting coal plants like the Gallatin facility near Nashville,” the Sierra Club said in a Nov. 15 letter signed by the president of its Tennessee Chapter, Katherine Pendleton as well as the head of Sierra Club’s national Beyond Coal Campaign, Bruce Nilles.

“At Progress Energy you also saw firsthand the mistake of trying to extend dependence on risky nuclear plants,” the Sierra Club officials said in the letter. “The problems and cost overruns at the Crystal River and proposed Levy nuclear plants in Florida make it clear that continuing to pursue further spending on nuclear plants such as Bellefonte is not the prudent course for TVA.”

In July, when Duke Energy (NYSE: DUK) merged with Progress Energy, the expanded Duke board of directors unexpectedly forced Johnson to resign as chief of the combined company. Financial problems associated with the long-running outage at the 860-MW Crystal River reactor in Florida helped seal Johnson’s fate, according to public hearings in North Carolina.

About Wayne Barber 4201 Articles
Wayne Barber, Chief Analyst for the GenerationHub, has been covering power generation, energy and natural resources issues at national publications for more than 20 years. Prior to joining PennWell he was editor of Generation Markets Week at SNL Financial for nine years. He has also worked as a business journalist at both McGraw-Hill and Financial Times Energy. Wayne also worked as a newspaper reporter for several years. During his career has visited nuclear reactors and coal mines as well as coal and natural gas power plants. Wayne can be reached at wayneb@pennwell.com.