TVA withdraws construction permit for abandoned Bellefonte nuclear project after judge nixes sale to private group

Abandoned Bellefonte nuclear plant project
Photo courtesy TVA

It only took about five decades to resolve, but the project to build the new Bellefonte nuclear power plant in northeast Alabama appears officially dead.

The Tennessee Valley Authority has withdrawn its construction permit for the project which actually began the first phases construction in the 1970s and was halted in the late 1980s, according to Associated Press reports quoting the Chattanooga Times Free Press. The TVA sold Bellefonte to a company headed by the real estate-wealthy Haney family, but recently a federal judge canceled that five-year-old deal.

The Haneys created Nuclear Development LLC to revive the Bellefonte project after TVA abandoned it because the federal utility did not see the need for such a large and expensive capacity generation resource. Nuclear Development submitted a winning bid of $118 million for the property in 2016.

The buyer, whose leadership included former TVA Chairman Dennis Bottorff, had scheduled to begin construction to finish Bellefonte for about $13 billion. The TVA, however, pulled out of the deal two years later, citing failure to reach regulatory benchmarks by the Haney family.

Nuclear Development tried to legally fight the TVA’s reversal. The investor also came under scrutiny after leader Franklin Haney donated $1 million to then President Trump’s inaugural committee and retained former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen temporarily, moves seen by some as possibly trying to grease the regulatory pathway for the project.

Earlier this year, Nuclear Development sent out a press release aligning its goal to complete and commission Bellefonte with the Biden Administration’s carbon reduction and climate change goals.

The move did not work and the project almost certainly will not move forward again, although, given its history, anything is possible.

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