Don’t ignore the interests of the people in Jackson County in your righteous opposition to Frank Haney’s Bellefonte plans
SCOTTSBORO – If you’ve ever made the journey down Sand Mountain and into the Tennessee River Valley — from Section into Scottsboro, on Alabama Highway 35, down to where the old steel-truss B.B. Comer Bridge once stood — you’ve seen the concrete cooling towers that are part of the Bellefonte Nuclear Plant.
They stick out like a blot on the picturesque Lake Guntersville landscape, as the Tennessee River makes its way down from Tennessee and into Marshall County. For most of the people who live in that area, it would be fine if those cooling towers served a purpose.
But they don’t.
Instead, the two imposing 600-foot-tall concrete structures that are part of Hollywood, Ala.’s Bellefonte plant have remained dormant for the last three decades, since the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) halted construction on the plant in 1988.
As one might expect with a quasi-governmental entity like TVA, which is seemingly answerable to no one, what the future has in store for Bellefonte has been anyone’s guess since 1988.
Enter Chattanooga, Tenn. developer Frank Haney, who wants to take Bellefonte off TVA’s hands. In November 2016, Haney’s Nuclear Development, LLC entered into a $111 million contract to purchase Bellefonte from TVA with the goal of eventually producing nuclear-generated electricity.
The catch: He needs a loan of $5 billion from the federal government.
The aspect of Haney’s plan seems to have the support of many of the lawmakers that represent Jackson County, including Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Huntsville). Brooks has been an outspoken advocate of the proposal.
On the opposite side of the issue are the left-of-center brainiacs at AL(dot)com, who seem to have only recently discovered the virtues of government fiscal responsibility. (That miraculous feat in itself should be a red flag.)
“Wake up Alabama. If Franklin Haney builds this reactor, you’ll pay for it,” John Archibald wrote in an August 5 column. “Maybe it’s not a lot of money to Haney, but it’s a lot of money to me.”
“If you thought taxpayers were supposed to be clean and clear of this thing, we’re not,” Kyle Whitmire, who is waging a war on dumb, wrote in a May column. “This isn’t privatization. This is what we’ve seen too much of in this country in the last ten years: Private profits and public risk.”
Being ideologically opposed to public-private, Frankenstein-ownership of nuclear power is a valid position but maybe start with the entire Tennessee Valley Authority if you’re true to these convictions.
At least acknowledge this isn’t just about whether or not Frank Haney makes his billions. It’s a potential shovel-ready project that could benefit the economy in a part of Alabama that could use the help.
The critics, as mentioned earlier, also argue that utility companies say there isn’t a market for an additional supply of electricity and there are questions as to whether and how electricity produced by Bellefonte would be transferred on to the existing power grid.
Since when did these critics start accepting what utility companies say wholeheartedly at face value?
There is one component these two fiscal hawks overlook (which admittedly causes me to question how much time they have actually spent in Northeast Alabama investigating the issue): People in Jackson County have had to deal with this on-again and off-again saga of Bellefonte since for the last several decades.
When headway is made on finally doing something with this industrial blight, the pseudo-intellectual set in our state’s media cry foul.
My question to them is what should be done with this lakefront property? Does it just sit there in perpetuity and then maybe in the year 2078, we’ll need nuclear power and can employ this century-old structure?
Instead of answers to these reasonable questions, we get argle-bargle about tenuous associations Haney has with former Trump fixer Michael Cohen, which apparently must mean the whole thing is rotten to the core.
One possible scenario, as laid out by former North Alabama Congressman Bud Cramer, who has been hired to work on behalf of Haney’s effort, is that Bellefonte could ultimately be a replacement for the Browns Ferry Nuclear Plant, the operational facility owned by TVA.
The point is, there are legitimate cases for the revitalization of Bellefonte. You may be against them for any reason. However, if you are against it – pray tell, what should be done with this multibillion-dollar boondoggle known as Bellefonte? I haven’t heard a good answer to that question from the naysayers.