The Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) is now looking to build a single reactor at the Bellefonte Nuclear Plant site in Hollywood, Ala., instead of the four reactors for which it had anticipated regulatory approval.

This May, the nation’s largest public power provider said it would continue to pursue approval from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to build and operate two Westinghouse AP1000 reactors—Units 3 and 4—at the site. This decision was made even though the NuStart consortium—a nuclear energy firm of which TVA is a member—shifted initial licensing efforts for the new reactor design to Southern Nuclear’s Plant Vogtle application. 

But last week, TVA said it was preparing a supplemental environmental impact statement (SEIS) to update existing information about potential impacts associated with its proposal to operate a "singe nuclear unit" at the Bellefonte site.

The NRC had granted construction permits for Bellefonte’s Units 1 and 2, two pressurized water reactors, in 1974. By 1988, when TVA deferred completion of the plant, Unit 1 was 88% complete and Unit 2 was 58% complete. But in 2006, having decided not to complete construction of the reactors, TVA requested that the NRC withdraw the construction permits for the two units.

TVA said that the SEIS would evaluate three alternatives: completing and operating one of the partially completed units, constructing and operating a new Westinghouse AP1000 nuclear unit, and taking no action to operate a nuclear unit at the site.

The company said it had forecast that additional baseload generation would be needed in the 2017 to 2020 timeframe, and that nuclear generation was a better option to move TVA to having at least 50% of its generation portfolio consist of low- or zero-carbon-emitting sources by the year 2020. "Operating a nuclear unit at Bellefonte would allow TVA to put existing assets to work for the benefit of the residents of the Tennessee Valley," TVA Senior Vice President of Nuclear Generation Development and Construction Ashok Bhatnagar said in a press release last week.

Although no decision on adding generating capacity at the Bellefonte site has been made, Bhatnagar said that the evaluation will compare the environmental impacts of completing an existing unit with those of building a new unit and help TVA’s board of directors decide which power-generating alternative is best suited for the next unit at the site.

As part of the NuStart consortium’s effort to demonstrate the feasibility of processing a combined operating license (COL) application, TVA submitted a COL application to the NRC in October 2007 for the siting of two AP1000 reactors—Units 3 and 4—at the Bellefonte site. Then, in August 2008, it asked the NRC to reinstate the permits for Units 1 and 2, saying that changing power-generating economics had made completion of the units viable.

In a unique regulatory tactic this February, the NRC officially "terminated" Units 1 and 2 so that TVA could reestablish physical conditions and records of quality before the units could transition to a "deferred" status. The COL application for Bellefonte 3 and 4 remains under consideration by the commission.

Source: TVA, NRC, POWERnews