The Bellefonte Boondoggle

If this story was about a Hollywood science fiction blockbuster called “Bellefonte” costing billions of dollars to produce, critics would give it a “two thumbs down” rating.  Unfortunately, it is not science fiction but is the truth, and it is happening right now in Hollywood, Alabama.

The Bellefonte Atomic Power Plant in Hollywood, Alabama was designed in 1968 at the height of the Vietnam War. Engineers used slide rules back then; I know, I was one of them. Construction of Bellefonte was authorized to begin in 1974, but Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) missed that deadline by a mile. In fits and starts TVA continued to build Bellefonte between 1974 and 1988 until it was 80% complete, then TVA decided to stop any semblance of construction and put the reactor in mothballs.

“Mothballing” an atomic power plant means it is put in a protective environment so that rodents do not eat the wires, and so that inert gasses are maintained to prevent rust. Equally important, the Quality Assurance (QA) paperwork is maintained so that the quality of the plant is assured.  Bellefonte remained mothballed from 1988 to 2005.

After originally investing billions of dollars trying to build the Bellefonte atomic reactor, the Tennessee Valley Authority decided in 2005 not to continue “mothballing” Bellefonte, instead they would cannibalize the, reactor, sell its parts for scrap and use the money toward other projects. TVA even requested that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) terminate its NRC license.  During the next three years tore the power plant apart and sold its parts as scrap metal for pennies on the dollar.

The plot thickened in 2008 when TVA claimed had made a business error and now would finish constructing and then operate this atomic reactor designed more than 40-years ago. TVA asked the NRC to reinstate Bellefonte’s nuclear power license, and incredibly, the NRC said, sure no problem you start construction again, even though cannibalized it’s parts during the last two years.

Finally, after spending hundreds of millions of dollars more since 2008 completing the reactor designed in 1968 totaling $4 Billion in all, TVA now wants to sell Bellefonte for approximately $35 million. The new owner is even considering pouring billions of dollars more into this old reactor claiming that it might actually produce electricity some day in the future.  Of course the new owners want a huge financial subsidy due to all the construction jobs it will create Alabama!  When will they ever learn?

I wrote a full report about how Bellefonte should finally be laid to rest:  Here is the link: