The Tennessee Valley Authority's (TVA) board of directors voted to sell the unfinished Bellefonte nuclear power construction site after about 10 minutes of discussion at their most recent meeting after being presented with the option by the utility's general council.
After spending more than $4 billion developing the site, most of that spent almost 30 years ago, the board declared the site surplus and agreed to sell it to the highest bidder, regardless of whether or not that bidder intended to complete the nuclear power facility. Work on the two units at the site was halted in 1988, while the units were considered, respectively, 98 percent and 52 percent completed.
An independent appraiser has valued the Bellefonte site near Hollywood, Ala., to be worth $36.4 million with that value predicated on the idea that unfinished nuclear power reactors are more liability than asset. Otherwise, one unused nuclear power reactor 98 percent completed would have a replacement costs measured in billions, making a $36.4 million unit 98 percent complete the steal of the century. And the Babcock & Wilcox light water reactor Unit 1 at the site has a twin more than half finished sitting next to it.
Although a standard license for a new reactor runs for 40 years, the technology of components in place at Bellefonte are close to 30 years out of date. What do you pay for a 1988 car that has never been driven and is 98 percent complete? A lot has changed since then, but some things have not.
The TVA said they had received comments from 79 entities concerning sale of the Bellefonte property with the majority favoring a sale. Tellingly, the elected officials who responded, including Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley, all favored a sale that would give preference to those who intended to complete the unfinished reactors.
The TVA board did not consider that option their decision to make. Their allegiance was to their shareholders, primarily, and to the residents of northern Alabama, next. Having the economic development in the region move forward was a prime consideration in the decision to sell, but how that development occurred once they sell the site is out of their hands.
TVA would not be obliged to buy power from the facility if the new owner finished the reactors, the general council advised.
The Bellefonte site is a 1,600-acre property with two unfinished reactors and various infrastructure in place, including railroad spurs, a helicopter pad, office buildings and warehouses, parking lots and transmission stations.
The site would require an environmental review for a sale to go through, the costs of which will be the responsibility of the winning bidder.
The TVA went so far as to define the bidders as "qualified bidders."
"There will have to be a positive impact for the community for us to qualify you as a bidder," said TVA President and Chief Executive Officer Bill Johnson after the meeting.
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