APR: your source for nuclear news and analysis since April 16, 2010

Monday, April 13, 2015

TVA Backs off Bellefonte

Bellefonte Nuclear Plant, courtesy TVA

TVA has announced both in public form and in an official "road map" for its future that the two unit Bellefonte nuclear station is no longer intended for completion.

This plant was part of a wave of nuclear plants ordered by TVA in the late 60's and early 1970's when TVA was facing what it saw as enormous increases in demand through the 1970's.  As those estimates proved overly high, TVA began to cancel nuclear plants it had ordered.  The cutoff for TVA was not like that, though, for other utilities; while it completed some plants and outright cancelled others, there were some units that were slowed down, or you might say "put on ice" -- the two Watts Bar units (the first of which was completed after a long time period, and the second of which is due to be completed this year, i.e. 2015) and the two Bellefonte units.

The Bellefonte plant was officially ordered in August 1970, at which time TVA ordered two of Babcock & Wilcox's largest and most powerful Nuclear Steam Supply Systems (NSSS) of the day - the Babcock -205.  These units were to have been rated at roughly 3760 MWt / 1175 MWe (first figure from B&W "Steam" 38th ed. 1975 and second figure from AEC publication WASH-1174-71) and were to have been completed and in commercial service in 1977 and 1978 (WASH 1174-71.)

At the same time as Bellefonte was ordered, TVA ordered the two Watts Bar units (Westinghouse 1169 MWe, intended for completion originally in 1976-1977 and for which construction permits were acquired immediately, unlike Bellefonte.)

TVA actually cancelled outright three entire nuclear power stations which were ordered after Bellefonte.  In December 1972 TVA ordered four GE BWR units for the Hartsville A1 and Hartsville A2 sites; in August 1974 it ordered two more for Phipps Bend and two more for Yellow Creek.

August 1982 saw the first round of cancellations.  In that month, Hartsville B1 and B2 were cancelled (17% and 7% complete, respectively) and so were Phipps Bend 1 and 2 (29% and 5% complete, respectively.)  Two years later, in 1984, TVA cancelled Hartsville A1 and A2 (44% and 34% complete, respectively) and also cancelled Yellow Creek 1 and 2 (35% and 3% complete, respectively.)  Clearly, it can be seen by the completion percentages that not all of the units were being constructed at the same pace -- deferral of work had already been taking place.

All of the nuclear units TVA ordered prior to August 1970 were completed (Browns Ferry, Sequoyah).  Only one of the four ordered in August 1970 has been completed (Watts Bar Unit 1, not completed until 1996) although another (Watts Bar Unit 2) will be.  All of the units ordered later than August 1970 by TVA were cancelled.  The only "in limbo" units with any state of completion that could offer hope of operation are Bellefonte 1 and 2, although it should be pointed out that some components of these units were removed and scrapped over the years and would need to be completely replaced.

Knowing that last set of facts and the fact that TVA has expected nearly flat demand growth for some time (this was said way back when the plan to build a Generation mPower SMR plant at Clinch River was in the works and this author was told then that TVA did NOT need the power these units would generate, by an inside source) it isn't surprising at all that Bellefonte is on the chopping block again.

Now, will TVA cancel these units outright?  Or will it again place them in stasis?  The word is not out on this yet, but when I hear it one way or another as a certainty, I will post that here.

5:45 PM Eastern 4/13/2015