After spending more than 40 years and $5 billion on an unfinished nuclear power plant in Alabama, the nation's largest federal utility is preparing to sell the property at a fraction of its cost, reports the AP. The Tennessee Valley Authority has set a minimum bid of $36.4 million for its Bellefonte Nuclear Plant and 1,600 acres of waterfront property on the Tennessee River. The buyer gets two unfinished nuclear reactors, transmission lines, office and warehouse buildings, eight miles of roads, a 1,000-space parking lot, and more. Initial bids are due Monday, and at least one company—Nevada-based Phoenix Energy—has expressed interest in using the site for alternative energy production, and says it will offer $38 million. But TVA says it isn't particular about what the buyer does—power production, industrial manufacturing, recreation, or even residences would all be fine with the agency. "It's all about jobs and investment, and that's our primary goal for selling this property," says a rep. TVA hopes to close the deal in October.
Work began at Bellefonte in the mid-'70s on the backside of the nuclear energy boom. The utility initially planned to construct four reactors at the site, but demand for power in the region never met early expectations and work halted in 1988. A series of starts and stops preceded TVA's decision earlier this year to sell Bellefonte. "If you're going to make 1,200 megawatts you need to sell it to somebody, and if there's no need for it you're not going to finish," says the site's manager. "And that's really what's happened." Sales of US nuclear plants aren't that unusual; the Nuclear Energy Institute, an industry group, says at least 30 units have been sold in part or whole since 1999. The sale of Bellefonte is creating hope for residents who gave up long ago on the promise of thousands of good-paying, permanent jobs. "It was a great thing but then they just pulled the plug and left," says a local mayor. (Read more Tennessee Valley Authority stories.)