The Tennessee Valley Authority’s Bellefonte nuclear power plant in Alabama—with two 1,260-MW units that were only partially built 30 years ago—could be the first such facility completed in the U.S. by a developer rather than a utility.

Nuclear Development LLC, a Virginia-based family business established by Franklin Haney, awaits approval of $4.5 billion in U.S. Energy Dept. loan guarantees and other federal tax credits, says Preston Swafford, chief nuclear officer for SNC-Lavalin Group. The firm is the developer’s EPC contractor for one of the units.

Haney unveiled his plans at a news conference in Hollywood, Ala., on June 30. “Significant progress has been made and a host of suppliers and contractors have been brought aboard,” Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Ala.), said in a statement.

He and other legislators wrote to President Donald Trump May 14 for assistance in completing the review for DOE’s loan guarantee, claiming that construction would generate 8,800 jobs.

The Wall Street Journal reported on Aug. 2 that Haney agreed to pay Trump’s former lawyer Michael Cohen a retainer and a $10-million success fee if he could successfully obtain project funding, including a $5-billion U.S. government loan.

Federal records show Haney donated $1 million to Trump’s inaugural fund after his bid for Bellefonte was accepted.

Haney did not return phone calls from ENR, but neither he nor Nuclear Development entered into a contract with Cohen, a company lawyer said.

SNC-Lavalin was chosen to refurbish one of the pressurized water reactors at the 1,600-acre site, which TVA declared as surplus in 2016. It was then auctioned with the two unfinished units, on which the utility had spent more than $5 billion before construction was halted in 1988.

TVA made the decision after power sales dropped and it determined the capacity was not needed for another 20 years.

TVA received a $111-million bid from Haney, who said when it was accepted that he planned to invest up to $13 billion to complete the two units. He said recently that he has contracts to sell power from Unit 1 but the buyers were not disclosed. 

The project has some strong opponents. Stephen Smith, executive director of the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, says Haney "has created an illusion that this is a viable project.”

The sale should close in coming weeks, said Swafford, a former TVA nuclear officer.

About 70% to 80% of the site work will be completed under a lump-sum contract with SNC-Lavalin, he said. The remainder, which is new construction, will be under a time-and-materials contract.

Completing Unit 1 is set to cost from $3.5 billion to $6 billion and take five to six years. “It is more predictable than a new build,” Swafford said. Sargent & Lundy said July 31 that it had an agreement with SNC-Lavalin to support the project with engineering as needed.