New TVA president meets Jackson Co. residents - WAFF-TV: News, Weather and Sports for Huntsville, AL

New TVA president meets Jackson Co. residents

Johnson spoke to the Scottsboro Rotary Club on Wednesday Johnson spoke to the Scottsboro Rotary Club on Wednesday

The new president of the Tennessee Valley Authority spoke to business leaders Wednesday in Jackson County. One of the talking points was problems at the Browns Ferry Nuclear Plant.

TVA President Bill Johnson spoke to the Rotary Club Wednesday afternoon in Scottsboro about the TVA and its vision of delivering power for the next decade. The agency was recently cited for a safety violation at Browns Ferry after an incident prompted an automatic shutdown of the plant.

The reactor was being tested following maintenance when the operator failed to follow correct protocol, leading to the shutdown. Johnson said there are growing pains as they work through problems at the plant. "We under-invested in the plant for a number of years," he said. "We just didn't put enough money in it, and we didn't have the right standard for our employees to work to."

"Over the last couple of years, we have made tremendous investments in that plant," Johnson continued. "The employees are working really hard, doing the right thing, and it's improving. It has a long way to go."

Johnson also discussed job losses and a slowdown with the project at the Bellafonte Nuclear Plant in Jackson County. This year, the on-site staff at Bellafonte is around 540 people, but that number is on a steady decline. Officials expect that number to drop to 151 by October 1. The plant's budget, once $182 million, is expected to dwindle to $66 million by the new fiscal year in October.

Johnson said the Bellafonte project is not dead, just slowing. The plant, originally built in the 1970s, is still unfinished. TVA had previously announced plans to restart the plant, but Johnson told the Rotary Club that circumstances had changed, due to lack of growth and demand for power.

"We set a peak level of demand in 2007," Johnson explained. "We are not likely to see that level of demand again until 2023. So we have a ten year period where we have very low growth, so the need for the plant has shifted."

Johnson said they hope to help that situation improve by phasing out older fossil fuel plants in order to shift need to Bellafonte.

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