Saturday, March 28, 2009

Permits for Bellefonte Unites 1 and 2 to be reinstated

In February the NRC authorized its staff to consider reinstating permits on the unfinished Bellefonte reactors Units 1 and 2. Unit 1 was 88 percent complete when TVA stopped construction on it 21 years ago. However, much completed equipment for the Bellefonte reactor has been stripped for use in other reactors and would have to be remanufactured if the reactor is to be complete. Unit 2 was about 58% complete when its construction stopped. TVA must provide the NRC with proof the Bellefonte units can be returned to a "deferred" status. Deferred status means that the reactors are in a condition that would allow them to be completed if and when TVA chose to complete them.

Earlier this month the NRC decided to return the two reactors to a deferred construction status. The NRC stated in a press release earlier this month,
after considering the technical, regulatory, and legal aspects of TVA’s request, concluded that there is sufficient reason to allow reinstatement of the construction permits, using a conservative sequential approach to ensure the safety of doing so.”
The NRC expects to hold public hearings on the reinstatement request. There is the to be expected opposition from pseudo-environmentalist groups to the reinstatement. Dramatic increases in the fuel cost for coal fired steam plants lead TVA to reconsider the completion of the long delayed reactors. In addition, TVA has applied for an NRC license to build two new reactors at Bellefonte.

TVA has not yet decided to complete the two units but it has billions of dollars invested in the partially completed reactors, The two reactors could be completed for far less than two new reactors would cost, and they would have similar power output to new reactors. TVA originally waved its construction permits for the two reactors in 2006.

The current Nuclear Regulatory Commission action reinstates TVA’s construction permit for the original reactors only as a “terminated” plant. The NRC has given the public 60 days to object to the permit. Further NRC action would be required before TVA would be permitted to resume construction of the reactors.

In addition to the two older reactors TVA has applied for a license to construct two new reactors at the Bellefonte location. It is not clear if TVA plans to build and operate all 4 reactors. At present TVA is working to complete the long deferred Watts Bar Unit 2 reactor. TVA recently reported that during the first year its newly reconstructed Browns Ferry Unit 1 reactor saved TVA $800 million in operating costs.

1 comment:

Aaron said...

Excelleng blog! I often wonder if people realize that a greener society, one that closes the loop on all of its waste streams, carries an even greater per-capita energy cost than our present civilization does? That to run extensive recycling of arbitrary waste, you have to spend energy to do it?

That energy has to come from somewhere, and it's not going to happen by the savings from buying the right brand of light-bulb!

To run such a society with chemical energy, you would have to burn on the same order of magnitude or so of fuel mass as the mass you are reducing back to raw materials. Nuclear energy offers us a much more potent source for this sort of work.

I'm glad to see someone on the green movement that is open to the expansion of nuclear energy. With arbitrary amounts of energy at our disposal, all other resource problems become matters of running the right chemical plant. Without abundant energy, we won't be able to support the number of people we already have at any decent standard of living.


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