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TVA's Power Production Future: Completing Bellefonte on the table

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The Bellefonte nuclear power plant in Northern Alabama currently sits idle, but that could soon change. The Bellefonte nuclear power plant in Northern Alabama currently sits idle, but that could soon change.

Bill Williams
Special to WRCBtv.com

This is Part 1 in a 5-part series on TVA's future in power production, produced by WBIR, our NBC partner in Knoxville.

HOLLYWOOD, AL (WRCB) - TVA has been lighting up the Tennessee Valley for three-fourths of a century, and it now provides electricity to 9 million customers in 7 states.

The agency first started producing electricity with the completion in 1936 of Norris Dam and continued to expand by harnessing the power of the Tennessee River and its tributaries.

But by the mid 20th century, the backbone of TVA's power generation became coal-fired power plants. Before expensive pollution controls were installed, those plants spit out poisonous gases and fly ash.

Now, they're getting old, and TVA President Tom Kilgore says there's a chance that some of those coal plants will be shut down.

What, then is the future of TVA power generation, a future that demands clean energy? Kilgore says that means nuclear power, plus a continued use of hydroelectric generation, along with renewables including wind and solar power.

Nuclear power is nothing new to TVA. In 2009, six nuclear reactors in three plants provided about 32 percent of TVA's power production.

In the future, nuclear power will claim a greater share.

TVA's Bellefonte Nuclear plant in northern Alabama sits empty and silent. When it was deferred in 1988, Unit One was 88%complete.

Inside the containment building, the core support barrel is still bright and shiny, but unused.

The plan, though, is that it will be used. According to an Environmental Impact Statement just released, the TVA staff will recommend that construction begin again on Unit One. Now, because of new technology and because some components of the plant have been removed, engineers say Unit One is 55% complete.

It's estimated the cost to get Unit One online will be about $3 1/2 billion.

The TVA Board is expected to make a decision on whether to resume construction on Bellefonte at its August 20th meeting.

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