(AP) — The Tennessee Valley Authority said Wednesday that it is considering whether to sell its unfinished Bellefonte Nuclear Plant, started in 1974 in northeast Alabama and mothballed for the past 28 years without ever producing any electricity.
The federal utility announced it is taking public comments on whether to sell the 1,600-acre site on the Tennessee River near Hollywood, a town of about 1,000 people located 120 miles northeast of Birmingham. No potential price was mentioned, but TVA said it has spent about $5 billion at Bellefonte.
A purchaser would get two unfinished light-water nuclear reactors dating to the 1970s, transmission equipment, a helicopter landing pad, railroad lines, multiple buildings and parking lots. Bellefonte could still be used for a nuclear power plant, the utility said, but it could also be used for industrial, commercial or residential developments.
"It's time we answer the question of whether TVA is serving the public well by retaining control of the Bellefonte site, or if others could make more beneficial use of it," TVA chief executive Bill Johnson said in a statement. The public comment period ends March 18, and TVA directors will decide later whether to sell the site.
The utility last week killed a decade-old plan to construct two new nuclear reactors at Bellefonte, which was never completed as construction costs rose, demand for electricity flattened out and other forms of energy became more affordable. Environmentalists and clean-energy groups that have urged TVA to abandon Bellefonte said they were encouraged by the possible sale as long as another company doesn't try to use it for nuclear power.
"If someone is reckless enough to acquire the site and attempt to complete the Bellefonte 1 and 2 reactors with the existing, antiquated reactor design, we will aggressively oppose their efforts," said Stephen Smith, executive director of the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy.
Last year, Google said it would construct a $600 million data center at the site of a former coal-fired electricity plant operated by TVA about 20 miles from Bellefonte.
TVA is the nation's largest public utility. It provides electricity to about nine million people in Tennessee, Alabama, Mississippi, Kentucky, Georgia, North Carolina and Virginia.