Flashback: Balky Bellefonte

TVA’s Quixotic Bellefonte Quest. By Charles Ahrens

The towers of the Bellefonte Nuclear Power Plant, in the foothills north of Scottsboro, could nearly qualify as a historic landmark — as one of the longest running construction projects in the U.S.

The Tennessee Valley Authority initiated the on-again, off-again project back in 1974 — the year Richard Nixon resigned the presidency.

Construction seemed imminent again this year, but may fall victim to the bedlam surrounding another president. The Wall Street Journal reported in August that the Chattanooga developer who was relaunching Bellefonte as a private project had offered $10 million to President Donald Trump’s former attorney, looking for help in landing a $5 billion Department of Energy loan to complete construction.

If this bid falls through, it won’t be the first flip-flop in Bellefonte history.

Not long after the project originated back in Nixon’s day, construction halted for the first time — in 1985 on Unit 2 and in 1988 on Unit 1.

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Flopping back into forward motion, engineering work started again in 1992 as a prelude to resuming construction. But just two years later, work ground to a halt again.

Also in 1994, TVA started considering other options, including an offer from Chattanooga developer Franklin Haney to finish the project, which TVA turned down.

In 2006, TVA started to dismantle the plant and sell off parts, but here comes another flip — the agency started construction once again in 2008.

Business Alabama reviewed the flip-flop history in July 2012. TVA had announced in February that construction would start again soon, but in April, just a few months later, the agency put the project on hold until at least 2014, citing falling demands for power.

In 2013, even before the wait-and-see period elapsed, TVA put the plant up for auction.

And in 2016, upholding Bellefonte’s great flip-flop tradition, TVA accepted a $111 million offer from developer Haney — the same person they turned down in 1994. That deal is set to close next month, Nov. 4.

But there’s still time for another flip. After the Wall Street Journal revelations in August, an attorney for Michael Cohen says there is no contract between his client and Haney but refused to comment further.

Chris McFadyen is the editorial director of Business Alabama.

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