- Associated Press - Thursday, May 5, 2016

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - The nation’s largest public utility is selling a never-completed nuclear plant that has cost more than $4 billion dollars over the past four decades.

The Tennessee Valley Authority board voted Thursday to declare the Bellefonte nuclear plant near Hollywood, Alabama, surplus. The site includes two partially finished nuclear reactors, office buildings, warehouses, parking areas, railroad spurs and a helicopter pad.

TVA President and CEO Bill Johnson said after the meeting that the 1,600 acre site has been appraised at $36 million. It will be sold at auction to the highest bidder, but the utility will consider job creation and economic impact when looking at potential buyers.

“There will have to be a positive impact for the community for us to qualify you as a bidder,” he said.

The decision to sell is the latest blow to the nuclear power industry, which seemed poised for resurgence a decade ago but has been stymied by cheap natural gas, high construction costs and relatively flat demand for power.

TVA recently completed construction of its long mothballed Watts Bar Unit 2 reactor in Spring City, which was first started in 1979 and then restarted in 2008. The reboot ran about $2 billion over budget and took about three years longer than anticipated.

Board member Eric Satz cited that experience in concluding that completing Bellefonte is not economically viable. He said a lot has changed in the energy market in the past 40 years, including huge improvements in energy efficiency and renewable energy technology.

And he said TVA should allow the Bellefonte site to be developed so the people of Hollywood “don’t live in limbo for the next 40 years.”

A recent TVA study concluded that the utility will not need any new large-scale facilities that can generate electricity 24 hours a day for at least 20 years.

The board met Thursday at Paris Landing State Park in Buchanan.

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This story has corrected the day of the week to Thursday.

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