As ownership dispute trial continues, future of Bellefonte Nuclear Plant remains uncertain

Huntsville

HUNTSVILLE, Ala – A trial stemming from the failed sale of the unfinished Bellefonte Nuclear Plant continues. Wednesday, the third day of the trial, is Tennessee Valley Authority’s 88th birthday. Bellefonte, a multi-billion-dollar unfinished project, is nearly half as old as the public utility that started it.

While a federal court looks at the failed sale of the nuclear plant in Jackson County, Bellefonte’s future remains uncertain.

Nuclear Development LLC posted the winning $111 million bid for Bellefonte in a 2016 auction. In 2018 the company estimated it would cost $8 billion to finish both reactors.

The sale was scheduled to close in November 2018, but that did not occur. TVA says they couldn’t move forward with the sale because Nuclear Development did not have the proper licensing. The Chattanooga-based company sued TVA over breach of contract, asking for millions in damages.

And this isn’t the first time the future of the plant has been up in the air. TVA began construction in 1974, but pulled the plug on the project in 1988 in the midst of cost overruns and rising debt.

TVA spokesperson Scott Fiedler says pending the outcome of the lawsuit, selling the plant remains a possibility.

“If the judge rules in our favor and TVA retains control of the plant, the next step would be going back to the board of directors. They have already surplused the property. We would need to go back and verify with the board that it is their desire and then we’ll have to work and get a plan going from there,” Fielder said.

TVA says their goal for the Jackson County community remains what it always has been.

“We ultimately want to bring jobs and investment to the people of Jackson County and North Alabama,” Fielder explained.

According to a 2018 interview with the CEO of Mountain Lakes Chamber of Commerce, finishing the plant could create 7,000 construction jobs for a project that could last 10-12 years.

In court Wednesday, Nuclear Development CEO Bill McCollum was questioned. He explained Nuclear Development paid $22 million as a down payment to TVA and more than $6 million in maintenance and security costs for the plant from 2016 to 2018.

TVA attorneys pointed out to the judge that some of those alleged damages also included costs of using charter jets for travel. One of the charter flights was only 71 miles.

While the judge said he would like to have the trial wrapped up Thursday it could still be several weeks before a decision is made regarding this case. Once the testimony concludes attorneys from both sides are expected to provide briefs to the court. After that there will be another hearing before the judge has a verdict.

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