The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) on Friday extended a construction permit for the Tennessee Valley Authority’s (TVA’s) unfinished Unit 1 reactor at the Bellefonte site near Scottsboro, Ala. The agency last week also listed actions Dominion must take before restarting operation of the quake-hit twin-reactor North Anna nuclear power plant near Louisa, Va.

Work on began in 1974 on two 1,260-MW Babcock & Wilcox pressurized water reactors (Units 1 and 2) at Bellefonte, but construction was halted in 1988—on Unit 1 when that reactor was 88% complete and on Unit 2 when it was 58% complete—in response to decreased power demand. An estimated $2.5 billion had been spent on the projects.

After withdrawing both Bellefonte permits in 2006, TVA determined in August 2008 that completing the Bellefonte reactors could be viable and requested that the NRC reinstate the permits. The NRC reinstated the permits in March 2009, returning the plant to “terminated” status under the Commission Policy Statement on Deferred Plants. In January 2010, the NRC placed the plant in “deferred” status.

Last year, after TVA said it would invest $248 million to maintain the option to complete the 1,260-MW Unit 1 reactor, it also submitted a permit extension request to the NRC. The NRC’s order extends the permit, which would have expired on Oct. 1 this year, and now makes it valid until Oct. 1, 2020.

“TVA must re-establish control over the plant’s physical condition and records regarding the quality of Units 1 and 2 before the NRC will authorize a return to active construction,” the NRC said. “This approach provides assurance to the public that the NRC will thoroughly scrutinize the plant and that any issues identified will be addressed before TVA can move forward.”

The Bellefonte site is located on approximately 1,600 acres adjacent to the Tennessee River in northern Alabama. Bellefonte Unit 2’s construction permit expires Oct. 1, 2014.

Meanwhile, the commission issued Dominion a confirmatory action letter, which said that because the Aug. 23 earthquake exceeded design parameters for North Anna, the plant will remain shut down until Dominion demonstrates “to the Commission that no functional damage occurred to those features necessary for continued operation without undue risk to the health and safety of the public.”

The letter then lays out the next steps in the restart process, starting with Dominion submitting documentation responding to all NRC questions regarding restart safety. Before restart, the NRC will also complete a safety evaluation.
Dominion has already told the regulator that it has found no significant damage to equipment as a result of the quake.

“We’re reviewing Dominion’s information to ensure North Anna’s systems will be able to keep the public safe and the plant won’t start up again until we’re satisfied on that point,” said Eric Leeds, director of the NRC’s Office of Nuclear Reactor Regulation. “We’re working diligently on coming to a technically sound decision.”

Sources: POWERnews, NRC, TVA, Dominion