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Nuclear Regulatory Commission considering construction permits for Bellefonte Nuclear Plant

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JACKSON COUNTY, Ala. -- The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission is considering an application for a company to take over the construction license for the Bellefonte Nuclear Plant in Jackson County.

The commission issued a notice Thursday seeking comment on the transfer of Bellefonte construction permits from the Tennessee Valley Authority to Nuclear Development LLC. The group, owned by Chattanooga-based developer Franklin Haney was formed to  complete the construction of the Bellefonte plant, according to regulatory filings.

Nuclear Development LLC was the high bidder -- at $111 million - in an auction to buy the plant in 2016, but the sale fell through after TVA said the company failed to acquire the construction permits from the NRC. TVA said selling the plant without the permits would violate the Atomic Energy Act. Nuclear Development said it couldn't secure the permits until after the sale.

Nuclear Development sued TVA in December 2018 to try and force the deal through or recoup $30 million it had already paid to TVA for a down payment and security costs at the site.

The court case is ongoing. But earlier this month, federal regulators informed Nuclear Development they will review its application for a construction permit, which was the sticking point in completing the sale.

Nuclear Development wants those permits to allow 10 years to finish the project, with Bellefonte Unit 1 completed by 2029 and Unit 2 by 2030, if the permits come through.

TVA started work on developing Bellefonte in 1974 but suspended the project in 1988. The energy provider spent $5 billion on the project since the 1970s and said it would take nearly $9 billion to finish just one reactor, but Nuclear Development claims it can build two reactors for less than that -- about $8 billion.

A TVA spokesman said Friday morning that TVA does not have any involvement in the NRC comment process.

Comments must be filed by Dec. 23, and a request for a hearing on the transfer must be filed by Dec. 11.

Comments can be submitted through hearing.docket@nrc.gov, faxing 301-415-1677, by going to the federal rulemaking website and searching for Docket ID NRC-2019-0228, or by mailing the Office of Administration, Mail Stop: TWFN–7–A60M, U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Washington, DC 20555–0001, ATTN: Program Management, Announcements and Editing Staff.

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