TVA asks judge to dismiss lawsuit over failed sale of Bellefonte Nuclear plant

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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. — The dispute over who is to blame for the failed sale of TVA’s  Bellefonte Nuclear Plant went before a federal judge in Huntsville Monday.

Nuclear Development LLC sued the Tennessee Valley Authority Nov. 30, the same day the utility decided to pull out of the $111 million sale.

TVA was in court Monday arguing the lawsuit should be thrown out. Attorneys for TVA argued Chattanooga-based Nuclear Development LLC failed to obtain construction permits for the plant from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, as required by law.

Nuclear Development’s lawyers argued that the law didn’t require the permits at that stage and federal regulators had learned at a hearing before the sale that the permits had not been obtained – but they offered no objection.

The proposal to complete the reactors was considered a potential boon for Jackson County. TVA began work on Bellefonte in the 1970s but abandoned the project.

Estimates vary about what it would cost to complete the plant. TVA estimates it could cost more than $8 billion to finish one reactor, while Nuclear Development estimates it could finish both reactors for about that much money. TVA has spent about $5 billion on the plant. There’s been more than one proposal to complete the work, but TVA decided a few years back to auction the property.

Nuclear Development was the high bidder in 2016 for the plant, with a winning bid of $111 million.

They had two years to close the sale, but on the day it was to be completed, TVA said selling the plant without the construction permits would violate the law.

Nuclear Development has asked the court to direct TVA to complete the deal, or failing that, to repay it about $30 million that it paid for security and other maintenance at the site.

During Monday’s hearing, U.S. District Judge Liles Burke questioned what happens to the money Nuclear Development LLC has paid TVA, if he dismisses the lawsuit.

A TVA attorney told the court the company does not have a position on it because they haven’t been asked for a refund so they haven’t gone through the process to make a decision on that.

Burke did not indicate when he would rule on TVA’s motion to dismiss.