JACKSON COUNTY, AL (WAFF) - Where do things stand with the Bellefonte Nuclear Power Plant site in Jackson County? The answer to that is complicated.
TVA and Nuclear Development, the company looking to buy the plant, appeared in federal court on Monday. Both sides weighed in on a lawsuit and a motion to dismiss it.
U.S. District Court Judge Liles Burke asked for background on construction permits and education on the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, pointing out that the case depends on a tiny niche in the law.
TVA says they couldn't close on the deal with Nuclear Development without approval and permission from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC).
Construction permits for Bellefonte are in deferred status, but TVA says they're still subject to all NRC regulations.
TVA's main point to the judge was that because they couldn't transfer the construction licenses for Bellefonte to Nuclear Development at the time of closing, that would have created a violation of the Atomic Energy Act.
“Our point today was that we had a contract with Nuclear Development where there was an inability to resolve some issues in that contract. After a period of a little over two years, we did remove that particular contract from the table and our goal at this point, which is the same as a year or two ago, is to ensure that the Bellefonte site is returned to productive use as quickly as possible,” said Jim Hopson, TVA Spokesperson.
TVA's stance is that any transfer of ownership would require NRC approval before, not after an ownership interest is acquired.
But Nuclear Development said they met with TVA and the NRC and laid out their plan and timeline and no one objected or raised any issues with the legalities or objected to the transactions in the sequence of events they provided.
Nuclear Development says they're out more $30 million and have spent $46 million on the project for consultants and engineers.
Bellefonte is not a utilization facility, Nuclear Development told the judge.
"TVA says we can't have the construction permits without NRC approval. NRC says they can't give us permission without TVA's consent so we find ourselves in a CATCH 22 position. We need a court order to give us the right to the property," Nuclear Development's attorney said. "There's no statute that makes this illegal."
Nuclear Development's attorney declined an interview after the hearing, saying he left his comments in the courtroom with the judge.
The judge told both sides that he will do the best to rule on this matter as expeditiously as possible.
“We’re pleased that we’re moving through this particular part of the process and we hope to get the judge’s decision in reasonably short order,” Hopson said.
The NRC is processing Nuclear Development’s application now for the transfer of construction permits. They believe it could take another year for them to get approval as elaborate process.