[Federal Register Volume 74, Number 152 (Monday, August 10, 2009)]
[Pages 40000-40003]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: E9-19045]



Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement for a Single Nuclear 
Unit at the Bellefonte Site

AGENCY: Tennessee Valley Authority.

ACTION: Notice of Intent.


SUMMARY: This notice of intent (NOI) is provided in accordance with the 
Council on Environmental Quality's regulations (40 CFR parts 1500-1508) 
and Tennessee Valley Authority's (TVA) procedures for implementing the 
National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). TVA will prepare a 
Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS) to update 
information in the 1974 Final Environmental Statement for Bellefonte 
Nuclear Plant Units 1 and 2 (1974 FES) and other pertinent 
environmental reviews, in order to address the potential environmental 
impacts associated with its proposal to operate a single nuclear 
generation unit at the Bellefonte Nuclear Plant (BLN) site located in 
Jackson County, Alabama. Currently, there are two partially constructed 
units at the BLN site. TVA may choose to complete and operate either 
one of these partially constructed units or construct and

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operate one new technology unit. Operation of one nuclear unit capable 
of producing approximately 1,100 megawatts (MW) of power would help 
address the need for additional base load generation in the TVA power 
service area; meet TVA's goal to have at least 50 percent of its 
generation portfolio comprised of low or zero carbon-emitting sources 
by the year 2020; and make beneficial use of existing assets at the BLN 

DATES: Comments on the draft SEIS will be invited from the public. It 
is anticipated that the draft SEIS will be available in fall 2009. A 
notice of availability of a draft SEIS will be published in the Federal 
Register, as well as announced in the local news media.

ADDRESSES: Information about the SEIS may be obtained by contacting 
Ruth M. Horton, Senior NEPA Specialist, Tennessee Valley Authority, 400 
West Summit Hill Drive, Mail Stop WT 11D, Knoxville, Tennessee 37902; 
by e-mailing to [email protected]; or by visiting the project Web site at 

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: For information about nuclear plant 
construction and operation, contact Andrea Sterdis, Nuclear Generation 
Development and Construction, Tennessee Valley Authority, 1101 Market 
Street, Mail Stop LP 5A, Chattanooga, Tennessee 37402 (e-mail: 
[email protected]).


TVA Power System

    TVA is an agency and instrumentality of the United States, 
established by an act of Congress in 1933, to foster the social and 
economic welfare of the people of the Tennessee Valley region and to 
promote the proper use and conservation of the region's natural 
resources. One component of this mission is the generation, 
transmission, and sale of reliable and affordable electric energy. TVA 
operates the nation's largest public power system, producing 4 percent 
of all electricity in the nation. TVA provides electricity to most of 
Tennessee and parts of Virginia, North Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, 
Mississippi, and Kentucky. It serves about 9 million people in this 
seven-state region through 158 power distributors and 58 directly 
served large industries and federal facilities. The TVA Act requires 
the TVA power system to be self-supporting and operated on a nonprofit 
basis, and the TVA Act directs TVA to sell power at rates as low as are 
    Dependable capacity on the TVA power system is about 37,000 MW. TVA 
generates most of this power with three nuclear plants, 11 coal-fired 
plants, nine combustion-turbine plants, a combined-cycle plant, 29 
hydroelectric dams, a pumped-storage facility, a wind farm, a methane-
gas cofiring facility, and several small renewable generating 
facilities. A portion of delivered power is obtained through long-term 
power purchase agreements. About 60 percent of TVA's annual generation 
is from fossil fuels, predominantly coal; 30 percent is from nuclear; 
and the remainder is from hydro and other renewable energy resources. 
TVA transmits electricity from these facilities over almost 16,000 
miles of transmission lines. Like other utility systems, TVA has power 
interchange agreements with utilities surrounding the Tennessee Valley 
region and purchases and sells power on an economic basis almost daily.
    In the mid-1990s, TVA developed an Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) 
with extensive public involvement. This process was completed with 
publication of the Energy Vision 2020 Integrated Resource Plan and 
Final Environmental Impact Statement (IRP/FEIS) in 1995 and the 
associated record of decision (ROD) in 1996. Based on the extensive 
evaluation, TVA decided to adopt a flexible portfolio of supply- and 
demand-side energy resource options to meet the growing demand for 
electricity in the region and achieve the goals of the TVA Act and 
other congressional directives. The portfolio of alternatives analyzed 
in the IRP/FEIS encompassed the current proposal to complete one 
nuclear unit at the BLN site. On June 15, 2009, TVA announced its 
intent to conduct a new comprehensive study and environmental impact 
statement (EIS) entitled the Integrated Resource Plan. The proposal set 
out in this NOI also supports TVA's goal of reducing its carbon 
footprint by 2020 and the need to make beneficial use of the existing 
infrastructure at the BLN site.

Bellefonte Nuclear Plant

    The BLN site is located in northeast Alabama on 1,600 acres 
adjacent to the Tennessee River at Mile 392, near the cities of 
Hollywood and Scottsboro in Jackson County. The site includes two 
partially completed Babcock and Wilcox (B&W) pressurized water reactors 
known as BLN Units 1 and 2 (BLN 1&2), with a capacity of about 1,200 MW 
each. The then Atomic Energy Commission (now called the Nuclear 
Regulatory Commission or NRC) issued construction permits for BLN 1&2 
on December 24, 1974. When TVA halted construction activities in 1988, 
in response to decreased power demand, BLN 1 was approximately 90 
percent compete, and BLN 2 was approximately 58 percent complete.
    TVA maintained the plant in deferred status until November 2005, 
when TVA's Board of Directors approved the cancellation of BLN 1&2 in 
order to facilitate consideration of the BLN site for other possible 
uses. TVA submitted a Site Redress Plan to the NRC, along with a 
request for withdrawal of the construction permits. Under the redress 
plan, TVA maintained environmental permits and equipment associated 
with ongoing activities at BLN, including a training center and a 
substation. The construction permits were withdrawn by the NRC in 
September 2006. Subsequent asset recovery activities, along with more 
recent inspections of remaining equipment, resulted in BLN 1&2 now 
being considered approximately 55 percent and 35 percent complete, 
    In 2006, TVA joined NuStart Energy Development LLC (NuStart), a 
consortium of 10 utility companies and two reactor vendors, to 
demonstrate the feasibility of processing a combined construction and 
operating license application (COLA) under 10 CFR Part 52 and to 
complete the design engineering for the Westinghouse AP1000 advanced 
design for a pressurized water reactor. Preliminary designs for two new 
reactors at BLN, known as Units 3 and 4 (BLN 3&4), were developed as 
part of the application process. In choosing the BLN 3&4 proposal as a 
COLA candidate, NuStart recognized that a substantial portion of the 
existing BLN 1&2 equipment and ancillary structures (e.g., cooling 
towers, intake structure, transmission switchyards) could be used to 
support such a new facility and that their use could reduce the cost of 
new construction. The COLA for BLN 3&4 was submitted to the NRC in 
October 2007 with TVA as the applicant of record. The COLA described 
the siting of two AP1000 reactors with an estimated thermal reactor 
power level of 3,400 MW and a net electrical output of at least 1,100 
MW from each reactor. Although TVA is the applicant of record for the 
NuStart demonstration, TVA has not decided to construct these advanced 
reactors at the BLN site.
    In August 2008, in response to changes in power generation 
economics since 2005 and the possible effects of constraints on the 
availability of the worldwide supply of components needed for new 
generation development, TVA requested reinstatement of the construction

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permits for BLN 1&2. Reinstatement would allow TVA to return the units 
to deferred status; resume preservation and maintenance activities; and 
determine whether the completion of construction and operation of the 
units would be a viable option. The NRC reinstated TVA's construction 
permits for BLN 1&2 in terminated plant status in March 2009. TVA is 
currently working to return the plant to deferred plant status. In 
addition to this current SEIS, TVA is conducting a Detailed Scoping, 
Estimating, and Planning (DSEP) study to further explore the 
feasibility of completing BLN 1 or BLN 2.
    In April 2009, NuStart transferred the initial licensing efforts 
and reference plant designation for the AP1000 from BLN 3&4 to Southern 
Nuclear's Plant Vogtle. The transfer of the reference designation will 
help the NRC complete the reference plant licensing process sooner and 
help move the industry closer to new plant construction and commercial 
operation of the AP1000 technology. Notwithstanding the transfer of the 
reference plant designation to Plant Vogtle, TVA is continuing to 
pursue a combined operating license for BLN 3&4 to preserve future base 
load generation options.

Proposed Action and Alternatives

    To address the need for additional low or zero carbon-emitting base 
load generation in the 2017 to 2020 time frame, TVA proposes to 
supplement the 1974 FES and other pertinent environmental reviews 
discussed in related documents identified below. The SEIS will evaluate 
the Action Alternatives of (1) completing and operating one partially 
completed B&W unit and (2) constructing and operating one new 
Westinghouse AP1000 unit. For either of these two Action Alternatives, 
use of the BLN site offers TVA the opportunity to maximize the value of 
existing assets, minimize environmental disturbance from new plant 
construction, and utilize licensing processes that are already 
underway. TVA will also consider the No Action Alternative.
    Under both Action Alternatives, the existing 161-kilovolt (kV) and 
500-kV switchyards constructed on the BLN site would be refurbished and 
reenergized; four 500-kV transmission lines that terminate in the BLN 
switchyard would be reestablished; the right-of-way would be brought 
back to current TVA standards; the capacity of nine existing 
transmission lines would be increased; and two 161-kV transmission 
lines that supply a 161-kV switchyard to provide site power would be 
reestablished. TVA owns and operates the regional transmission system.
    No decision to build any new generating capacity at the BLN site 
has been made at this time. TVA is preparing this SEIS to supplement 
the original 1974 FES and update the information in related documents 
discussed below in order to inform decision makers and the public about 
the potential for environmental impacts associated with a decision to 
complete (or construct) and operate one unit at the BLN site. The draft 
SEIS will be made available for public comment. In making its final 
decision, the TVA Board will consider the assessment in this SEIS, 
including input provided by reviewing agencies and the public, as well 
as the information in the DSEP study and the cost and engineering 
studies for the AP1000.

Summary of Relevant Environmental Reviews

    Several evaluations in the form of environmental reviews, studies, 
and white papers have been prepared for actions related to the 
construction and operation of a nuclear plant or alternative power 
generation source at the BLN site. As provided in the regulations (40 
CFR Part 1502) for implementing NEPA, this SEIS will update, tier from, 
and incorporate by reference information contained in these documents 
about the BLN site and about nuclear plant construction and operation.
    The environmental consequences of constructing and operating BLN 
1&2 were addressed comprehensively in the 1974 FES. In 1993, TVA issued 
a white paper in support of TVA's 120-day notice to NRC for resumption 
of plant construction. The white paper reviewed 10 aspects of TVA's 
proposal in the 1974 FES that had changed or were likely to change. TVA 
subsequently chose not to resume construction.
    Environmental conditions at the BLN site have been comprehensively 
reviewed three more times since 1993. The 1997 FEIS for the Bellefonte 
Conversion Project considered construction and operation of five types 
of fossil fuel generation, four of which involved plants with total 
electricity production capacity equivalent to BLN 1&2 (approximately 
2,400 MW). The proposed combustion turbine plant was not constructed.
    TVA participated as a cooperating agency with the Department of 
Energy (DOE) in preparing an EIS evaluating the production of tritium 
at one or more commercial light water reactors to ensure safe and 
reliable tritium supply for U.S. defense needs. The FEIS for the 
Production of Tritium in a Commercial Light Water Reactor addressed the 
completion and operation of BLN 1&2 and updated the environmental 
record with regard to their operation. TVA adopted this FEIS in May 
2000. DOE did not select BLN for tritium production, and TVA's current 
proposal to complete additional generating capacity at BLN does not 
involve the production of tritium. The tritium production FEIS included 
pertinent information on spent nuclear fuel management, health and 
safety, decommissioning, as well as other topics.
    Most recently in 2007, as a part of the COLA for BLN 3&4, TVA, as a 
member of the NuStart consortium, prepared and submitted a 
comprehensive environmental report (ER) entitled Bellefonte Nuclear 
Plant Units 3&4, COL Application, Part 3, Environmental Report (COLA 
ER), for the construction and operation of two Westinghouse AP1000 
nuclear plants at the BLN site. In addition to updating the description 
of environmental conditions at BLN and some operational aspects related 
to the cooling water system, this report fully describes the 
environmental effects of constructing and operating BLN 3&4. It also 
contains a discussion of alternative sites and energy resource options.
    In addition to documents directly related to the BLN site, two 
other TVA documents are relevant to this SEIS. First is the above-
mentioned 1995 IRP/FEIS. Deferral and completion of BLN 1&2 were among 
the suite of alternatives evaluated in the IRP/FEIS, but not as part of 
the preferred alternative. This was because in the IRP's economic 
analyses, TVA made conservative assumptions about the capacity factor 
(roughly how much a unit would be able to run) achieved by nuclear 
units. TVA's nuclear units, consistent with U.S. nuclear industry 
performance, now routinely exceed this earlier assumed capacity factor, 
which will be taken into account in the current consideration of 
completing or constructing a single nuclear unit at the BLN site.
    In February 2004, TVA issued the Reservoir Operations Study 
Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement evaluating the potential 
environmental impacts of alternative ways for operating the agency's 
reservoir system to produce overall greater public value for the people 
of the Tennessee Valley. This FEIS evaluated, among other things, the 
adequacy of the water supply necessary for reliable, efficient 
operation of TVA generating facilities within the operating limits of 
their National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permits and other 
permits. A ROD for this FEIS was issued

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in May 2004. TVA will incorporate assumptions for reservoir operations 
resulting from this FEIS review in the present evaluation.

Need for Power

    The proposal under consideration by TVA is to meet the demand for 
additional base load capacity on the TVA system and maximize the use of 
existing assets by either completing one of the unfinished B&W units or 
by constructing one new AP1000 unit. The environmental impacts of other 
energy resource options were evaluated as part of TVA's IRP/FEIS and in 
the COLA ER. This proposal also helps achieve TVA's goal to have at 
least 50 percent of its generation portfolio comprised of low or zero 
carbon-emitting sources by 2020.
    Demand for energy in the TVA power service area is expected to grow 
at an average rate of approximately 1.1 percent per year over the next 
20 years. In addition, TVA continues to set new peaks for power demand 
on its system, including a new all-time winter peak. TVA's current plan 
to meet growing demand includes a diversified expansion portfolio of 
market purchases (including up to 2,000 MW of renewable energy through 
a public request for proposal), intermediate and peaking gas-fired 
capacity, continued modernization of TVA's hydro plants to increase 
their power producing capacity, and expansion of TVA's Generation 
Partners Program. Combined with these actions, TVA anticipates having 
to add new base load capacity to its system no later than the 2017-2020 
time frame. As part of this SEIS, TVA will update the Need for Power 
analysis, as well as consider any new environmental information.

Preliminary Identification of Environmental Issues

    This SEIS will update the analyses of potential environmental, 
cultural, recreational, and socioeconomic impacts resulting from 
completion (or construction), operation, and maintenance of one nuclear 
unit and of reenergizing and upgrading the existing transmission 
system. The impact analyses will include, but not necessarily be 
limited to, the potential impacts on water quality and use; vegetation; 
wildlife; aquatic ecology; endangered and threatened species; 
floodplains; wetlands; land use; recreational and managed areas; 
visual, archaeological, and historic resources; noise; socioeconomics; 
solid and hazardous waste; geology and seismology; meteorology, air 
quality, and climate change; uranium fuels cycle effects and 
radiological impacts; nuclear plant safety and security including 
design basis accidents; and severe accidents and intentional 
destructive acts. Information from TVA's and NRC's previous 
environmental reviews (described above) relevant to the current 
assessment will be incorporated by reference and summarized in the 

Public and Agency Participation

    This SEIS is being prepared to update information and to inform 
decision makers and the public about the potential environmental 
impacts of completing and operating a single nuclear unit at the BLN 
site. The SEIS process also will provide the public an opportunity to 
comment on TVA's analyses. Other federal, state, and local agencies and 
governmental entities will be asked to comment, including the U.S. Army 
Corps of Engineers, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Alabama 
Department of Environmental Management, and Alabama Department of 
Conservation and Natural Resources.
    TVA will invite the review agencies and the public to submit 
written, verbal, e-mail, or online comments on the draft SEIS. It is 
anticipated that the draft SEIS will be released in fall 2009. Notice 
of availability of the draft SEIS will be published in the Federal 
Register, as well as announced in local news media. TVA expects to 
release a final SEIS in early spring 2010.

    Dated: August 4, 2009.
Anda A. Ray,
Senior Vice President & Environmental Executive, Office of Environment 
and Research, Tennessee Valley Authority.
[FR Doc. E9-19045 Filed 8-7-09; 8:45 am]