TVA facing ‘hard decisions’ at Bellefonte nuclear site

Citing ‘hard decisions’ driven by budget austerity, the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) said June 12 it’s reducing spending and cutting hundreds of jobs at the never-completed Bellefonte nuclear plant site in Hollywood, Ala.

While TVA still eventually plans to complete Bellefonte, its primary focus remains another unfinished atomic plant that had been started and later suspended – the Watts Bar 2 project in Tennessee, Senior Vice president for Nuclear Construction Mike Skaggs said in a statement. TVA has targeted a late 2015 commercial operation date for Watts Bar 2.

At Bellefonte operations and management budget will be reduced from approximately $182m in FY2013 to $66m in FY2014. This will mean the onsite TVA and contractor staff will be reduced from about 540 to approximately 140. The lays will take place over the next several months, TVA said in a statement.

There are currently 60 TVA employees and 480 onsite contractors with an additional 130 contractors in satellite offices. By Oct. 1, 2013, there will be 25 TVA employees and 115 onsite contractors associated with the Bellefonte effort.

“Over the past few months, TVA has been looking across the company, including at our nuclear construction projects, to determine the work that is most important to perform,” Skaggs said.

“The most important job in Nuclear Construction is to safely deliver Watts Bar 2 in a quality manner, on time and within budget. Protecting the Bellefonte asset is also at the top of our ‘must and will do’ list,” Skaggs said.

Bellefonte activities that will continue in FY2014 include performing core maintenance, protecting plant records and documentation, developing and validating the plant’s estimate to complete, gathering information to support the integrated planning process, security, and using the integrated resource planning process.

“We are still going to be doing quite a bit of work at Bellefonte,” a TVA spokesperson told GenerationHub June 12.

Skaggs, however, cautioned that more tough funding issues are ahead.

“Hard decisions are necessary, though, especially during challenging times like we face today as TVA works to lower rates by improving performance and controlling costs in an environment where mild weather and a mild economy have negatively affected sales,” Skaggs said.

TVA dusted off Bellefonte plans a few years ago

Work on the two-unit station began in 1974, but that effort was halted in the late 1980s for various reasons.

Over the years, TVA looked at everything from building a combined-cycle gas plant at Bellefonte to developing an ultra-modern “next generation” nuclear plant in connection with the NuStart consortium.

In 2009 NRC reinstates construction permits for Units 1 and 2 so TVA could evaluate the feasibility of completing the units. Then in 2011, the TVA board approved completion of Bellefonte Unit 1 as a 1,260-MW Babcock & Wilcox pressurized water reactor.

The board’s 2011 plans called for Unit 1 to be completed by 2020 at a cost not to exceed $4.9bn. But cost overruns and schedule delays in finishing Watts Bar 2 have forced Bellefonte further back in the TVA pipeline.

TVA will update its integrated resource plan later this year.

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.