Bellefonte Nuclear Power Plant Trial Begins

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HUNTSVILLE, Ala — After years of dispute, oral arguments began Sunday in a trial concerning the ownership rights of the unfinished Bellefonte nuclear plant.

The breach of contract case wound its way to court after The Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) pulled out of a deal to sell the plant to Chattanooga based, Nuclear Development.

“We believe that we have abided by the contract, and we’re asking the court today to rule in our favor,” said TVA spokesperson Scott Fiedler.

Sunday’s testimony was pre-recorded and played to the courtroom, but cameras were not allowed inside.

Bellefonte’s construction began in 1974 in Jackson County and continued through the 80’s, but the two-reactor plant was never completed. TVA decided to auction the plant off in 2016 and Nuclear Development had the winning bid.

Nuclear Development was supposed complete a $111 million payment to TVA to purchase the plant in late 2018, but TVA pulled out of the deal, sparking the breach of contract case.

On Sunday, TVA argued that it could not complete the sale of the power plant because Nuclear Development never obtained the required construction permits from federal regulators.

“Nuclear Development did not provide the, or get the required licenses from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission so therefore that prevented us from closing on the deal,” said Fiedler.

Meanwhile, Nuclear Development contends that the TVA was contractually required to assist in completing the sale and failed to do so.

The court heard testimony Sunday from Nuclear Development executive, Franklin Haney, as well as former TVA CEO William Johnson and former general counsel Sherry Quirk. A good portion of the testimony focused on a dispute between TVA leadership and a former TVA head employed by Nuclear Development. Also front and center was a decision by TVA not to grant the company a 60 day extension to complete the Bellefonte deal.

“TVA looked at, and wrote up the contract. Nuclear Development signed it. All parties knew going in what the specifications were,” said Fiedler.

Nuclear Development has asked the court to order TVA to repay the $22 million down payment it received along with another $10 million in costs. The case is scheduled to resume at 8:30 A.M. on Monday at the federal courthouse in Huntsville.

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