(December 19, 1994) On 12 December the Tennessee Valley Authority, one of the largest American power producers, said it would halt work on the last three nuclear power plants under construction in the United States.
(424.4196) WISE Amsterdam - Two of the unfinished units are at the Bellefonte Nuclear Plant near Hollywood, Alabama. The third, Watts Bar Unit 2, was being built near Spring City, Tennessee.
According to the International Herald Tribune, the decision "is the symbolic death notice for the current generation of reactors in the US." Another article by the same newspaper says the deci-7 sion also marks the end of an era for the "once-mighty US nuclear power 7 industry, which had held the promise of freeing the country from dependence on foreign oil."
TVA once had the most ambitious nuclear program in the country, with 17 reactors on order. Only five units were actually bulk, and only three of those are still operating. The reasons are the same as for other US utilities:
high costs and the uncertainty whether the plants, once constructed, will actually be brought on line.
TVA has already spent US$6.3 billion on the units (they were 57%-88% complete), and authorities estimated that another $8.8 billion would be needed to finish them. This was too much for TVA, which is already over-burdened with debt. (Forty-four percent of that debt is a result of its nuclear program). This leaves a "substantial but aging" base of nuclear plants in operation in the US: 109 plants produce approximately 21% of US electricity. Most US utilities long ago dropped plans to build more because of the costs. No new plants have been ordered since 1978.
But TVA, which is owned by the federal government and protected from some of the competitive pressures, had continued to press ahead. Its decision to halt construction is a major shift for the agency. But, said a government spokesperson, the TVA, which was created more than 50 years ago under Franklin D Roosevelt's New Deal, had to "recognize that policies conceived decades ago are no longer viable."
Although the end of the first generation reactors is welcome news, folks should be reminded that the US industry is already seeking federal certification for the next generation.
Source: International Herald Tribune, 13 and 16 Dec. 1994.
Contact: Katuab Earth First!, P0 Box 281, Chattanooga, TN 37401, USA.