Skip to main content

Suspense. Tension. Bellefonte!

house near bellefonte I’m not sure if it belittles the importance of the event to call it, well, suspenseful:

Later this month [this Friday, to be exact], the board of the Tennessee Valley Authority could take up a proposal to complete the Bellefonte nuclear power plant in northeast Alabama.

TVA administrators are conducting a campaign to gain public support for the project and nuclear energy in general despite a dangerous incident at a Japanese plant this year.

TVA had already put off making this decision once:

TVA staff says the most reliable and least costly option for future growth in electricity needs is nuclear power and completing the Bellefonte plant in Hollywood, Ala., for an estimated $4 billion to $5 billion. The board’s vote on the proposal, which had been expected this past spring, was put off after a nuclear fiasco in Japan.

“Dangerous incident,” “nuclear fiasco.” We may in for a long period of creative description-making for the accident at Fukushima. I’m not crazy about either of these,but points to reporters for mixing it up a bit.

With costs rising and more regulations anticipated for TVA’s aging coal-fired plants — the historic workhorse of electricity generation — the nation’s largest public power producer stands at a crossroads as the meeting approaches.

Oddly, the story doesn’t mention why aging coal plants might be facing rising costs and more regulation. Nuclear facilities are not exactly regulation free, after all. In any event, it’s clear that writer Anne Paine is feeling the suspense, too:

None of the board members contacted by The Tennessean last week was definite on how he or she would vote on Bellefonte.

Three members — [Barbara] Haskew; Mike Duncan of Inez, Ky.; and William Sansom of Knoxville — did not return telephone calls for comment. Those reached talked about keeping rates as low as possible for the9 million people served in parts of seven states through TVA’s distributors.

That actually speaks well to approving Bellefonte, but that’s what you do when you can’t know: you read teas leaves – parsing what people say for a hint.

There has been, as you might expect, some criticism from an environmental coalition called the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy (SACE). Some groups put up good contentions that ought to be answered carefully, but SACE just cooked up a stew of issues that aren’t really issues.

SACE released a report, saying TVA should not go forward at Bellefonte, providing what they claimed seven major factors that say TVA's attempt is extremely costly and and dangerous.

Here’s a bit from SACE’s press release:

Efforts by the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) to resume construction at the long-shuttered, nearly forty-year-old Bellefonte nuclear reactor Unit 1 in Jackson County, Alabama, are unlikely to be successful due to seven major problems, including water damage to the reactor site foundation, compromised radiation containment in the unfinished reactor, and a lack of records about what exactly went on when the critical systems in the unfinished plant were cannibalized while the project lay dormant.

Which makes it sound as though TVA intends to walk into the plant as-is and flip a switch.

[TVA President and CEO Tom] Kilgore said a completed Unit 1 at Bellefonte would essentially be a new unit, using the latest equipment and technology to meet the latest safety standards and regulations.

He also talks about the “water damage” – there isn’t any. Of course, if SACE cannot be sure of Bellefonte – as it presumably cannot – that provides a lot of license to promote what must be true or, to put it more specifically, what SACE feels must be true. And that’s being generous.

Unless the TVA board hangs onto its votes for awhile without revealing them – the vote itself is secret – we should know if TVA will be going ahead with Bellefonte this Friday.

Oh, the suspense.


If Bellefonte is approved, the plan currently is to bring it online in 2018, which means it will have taken 44 years from conception to completion. The project was officially suspended in 1988 due to falling energy costs, with reactor 1 about 88 percent complete. Reviving the project has percolated for awhile now and in 2008, TVA asked the NRC to reinstate the construction permits, which has happened. The recession depressed (recessed?) the demand for more electricity, so the original 4-reactor project is now one – well, one for now. Here are some up-to-date TVA talking points about Bellefonte.

On the road to Bellefonte – you didn’t really want another shot of a plant, did you? You can see a cooling tower over the trees on the left. It’ll be nice if they actually get to cool something.


Popular posts from this blog

Sneak Peek

There's an invisible force powering and propelling our way of life.
It's all around us. You can't feel it. Smell it. Or taste it.
But it's there all the same. And if you look close enough, you can see all the amazing and wondrous things it does.
It not only powers our cities and towns.
And all the high-tech things we love.
It gives us the power to invent.
To explore.
To discover.
To create advanced technologies.
This invisible force creates jobs out of thin air.
It adds billions to our economy.
It's on even when we're not.
And stays on no matter what Mother Nature throws at it.
This invisible force takes us to the outer reaches of outer space.
And to the very depths of our oceans.
It brings us together. And it makes us better.
And most importantly, it has the power to do all this in our lifetime while barely leaving a trace.
Some people might say it's kind of unbelievable.
They wonder, what is this new power that does all these extraordinary things?

A Design Team Pictures the Future of Nuclear Energy

For more than 100 years, the shape and location of human settlements has been defined in large part by energy and water. Cities grew up near natural resources like hydropower, and near water for agricultural, industrial and household use.

So what would the world look like with a new generation of small nuclear reactors that could provide abundant, clean energy for electricity, water pumping and desalination and industrial processes?

Hard to say with precision, but Third Way, the non-partisan think tank, asked the design team at the Washington, D.C. office of Gensler & Associates, an architecture and interior design firm that specializes in sustainable projects like a complex that houses the NFL’s Dallas Cowboys. The talented designers saw a blooming desert and a cozy arctic village, an old urban mill re-purposed as an energy producer, a data center that integrates solar panels on its sprawling flat roofs, a naval base and a humming transit hub.

In the converted mill, high temperat…

Seeing the Light on Nuclear Energy

If you think that there is plenty of electricity, that the air is clean enough and that nuclear power is a just one among many options for meeting human needs, then you are probably over-focused on the United States or Western Europe. Even then, you’d be wrong.

That’s the idea at the heart of a new book, “Seeing the Light: The Case for Nuclear Power in the 21st Century,” by Scott L. Montgomery, a geoscientist and energy expert, and Thomas Graham Jr., a retired ambassador and arms control expert.

Billions of people live in energy poverty, they write, and even those who don’t, those who live in places where there is always an electric outlet or a light switch handy, we need to unmake the last 200 years of energy history, and move to non-carbon sources. Energy is integral to our lives but the authors cite a World Health Organization estimate that more than 6.5 million people die each year from air pollution.  In addition, they say, the global climate is heading for ruinous instability. E…