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TVA makes big cuts in budget for mothballed Bellefonte n-plant

From the June 17, 2013 issue of Public Power Daily

Originally published June 17, 2013

By Jeannine Anderson
The Tennessee Valley Authority announced on June 12 that it will make big cutbacks for fiscal year 2014 in its budget for reviving the mothballed Bellefonte nuclear plant near Scottsboro, Ala. The new fiscal year begins on Oct. 1.

The operations and management budget will be cut from approximately $182 million this fiscal year to $66 million in fiscal 2014, TVA said. Onsite TVA and contractor staff will be reduced from 540 to approximately 140. The cuts will take place over the next several months, TVA said.

"Reducing spending at Bellefonte next fiscal year will help TVA focus resources, people, money, time and energy on nearer-term priorities," said Mike Skaggs, TVA's senior vice president for nuclear construction. "Some decisions are harder to make because they don’t affect just what we do every day — they affect people," he said. "Hard decisions are necessary, though, especially during challenging times like we face today as TVA works to lower rates by improving performance and controlling costs in an environment where mild weather and a mild economy have negatively affected sales." 

TVA is putting its focus on completing the second unit at its Watts Bar plant in east Tennessee, Skaggs said.

"The most important job in nuclear construction is to safely deliver Watts Bar 2 in a quality manner, on time and within budget," he said. "Protecting the Bellefonte asset is also at the top of our ‘must and will do’ list."

There are currently 60 TVA employees and 480 onsite contractors with an additional 130 contractors in satellite offices associated with the Bellefonte effort, TVA said. By Oct. 1, 2013, there will be 25 TVA employees and 115 onsite contractors.

Bellefonte activities that will continue in FY2014 include performing core maintenance, protecting plant records and documentation, security, and developing and validating estimates of the cost to complete the plant, along with gathering information to support the integrated planning process "and using the integrated resource planning process to determine how Bellefonte best supports TVA's overall efforts to continue to meet customer demand with low-cost, reliable power," TVA said.

The decision "comes as the price of natural gas has plummeted, making it difficult for the electric industry to justify the massive costs of new nuclear plants," the Associated Press reported June 12. "Utilities in California, Florida, New Jersey and Wisconsin have either shut down plants or will halt operations in the future because they are too costly to repair or upgrade."

Separately, TVA announced on June 5 that it is taking actions at its nuclear plants to respond to regulatory deficiencies noted by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission regarding the possibility of flooding at the plants. 

"We ... have taken steps to immediately address many of the conditions identified by the NRC," TVA said in a news release. "In addition, TVA has committed to install an entirely new layer of redundant reactor safety systems in seismically reinforced buildings located above Probable Maximum Flood levels, further strengthening our ability to protect the public even under the most extreme conditions."

TVA's Watts Bar and Sequoyah plants "will participate in supplemental NRC inspections to ensure the actions we have taken continue to provide the highest levels of readiness" for flooding, TVA said. TVA added that the issues noted by the NRC "are directly related to protecting plant systems under extreme conditions in a never-before-experienced flooding event." 


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Senior Vice President, Publishing 
Jeanne Wickline LaBella

Editorial Director
Robert Varela

Editor, Public Power Daily
Jeannine Anderson

Communications Assistant
Fallon W. Forbush

Manager, Integrated Media 
David L. Blaylock

Integrated Media Editor 
Laura D’Alessandro