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TVA employees to resign, retire over Biden vaccine mandate; Potential for instability at Bellefonte Nuclear Plant

U.S. Rep. Scott DesJarlais (R-TN) has sounded the alarm over some Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) employees’ intentions to resign or retire rather than conform to President Joe Biden’s vaccine mandate.

Should the administration’s COVID-19 vaccine decree cause TVA employees to prematurely leave the quasi-governmental electric utility, Alabama nuclear facilities including Browns Ferry Nuclear Plant and the inactive Bellefonte Nuclear Plant could experience staffing issues as a result.

These concerns prompted DesJarlais to send a letter to the White House outlining the negative consequences should the edict remain in place for TVA employees.

In his letter, the Tennessee congressman detailed the vital role TVA’s workforce plays in maintaining crucial infrastructure services for residents of the region.

“Take for example, the seven nuclear units TVA operates. It goes without argument that the jobs at these plants are not only critical to our infrastructure but the impact of operations being run short-staffed or with staff that is not properly trained would be disastrous,” advised DesJarlais. “TVA nuclear facilities are already experiencing a labor shortage. If even a small percentage of the current employees at TVA nuclear plants resigned or retired, the plant operations would be unable to function.”

DesJarlais requested the Biden administration deem TVA employees to be in compliance given that certain criteria is met which would alter guidelines of the current vaccine mandate.

The congressman asked that employees be considered compliant if they provide a positive antibody test showing prior infection of COVID-19. For those who cannot prove immunity and opt against becoming inoculated, he asked the administration to allow employees to test every fourth day for infection.

Should the White House agree to DesJarlais’ proposed criteria, TVA employees would be shielded from the administration’s mandate.

DesJarlais cited the unique training and skillset TVA’s workforce holds as he believes efficiently replacing employees who choose to leave their jobs would be a difficult undertaking.

He noted, “The nature of their specialized training will make these employees nearly impossible to replace, and we urge that you continue to work with TVA leadership to ensure they have options available to them to maintain operations during the COVID-19 pandemic.”

U.S. Rep. Barry Moore (R-Enterprise) was the lone member of Alabama’s congressional delegation to co-sign the Tennessee congressman’s letter.

In a statement provided to Yellowhammer News, Moore detailed is opposition to the mandate and believes DesJarlais’ request to be a “reasonable alternative.”

“I’ve been outspoken in my opposition to vaccine mandates and have done my best to bring attention to their negative impacts, but the potential consequences of these mandates on our nuclear workforce and operability is particularly alarming,” said Moore. “Nuclear generation is an indispensable source of power, especially in the Southeast, but these facilities can’t simply power down and start up again when shifts can’t be filled. Not only would that be unsafe, but millions could be impacted. We have proposed a more than reasonable alternative in our letter, and if President Biden’s intent is truly to keep Americans safe as he claims, he would be wise to consider it.”

Yellowhammer News asked Tennessee Valley congressmen U.S. Reps. Robert Aderholt (R-Haleyville) and Mo Brooks (R-Huntsville) for comment regarding the proposed alteration.

Aderholt praised the request and noted efforts he had undertaken to combat Biden’s vaccine edict.

“I commend Rep. DesJarlais’ efforts. I think a multi-pronged approach on these vaccine mandate overreaches is what is called for,” stated Aderholt. “And to that point, I am co-sponsoring HR 5360. This would roll back Biden’s vaccine mandates and prevent the Secretary of Labor from implementing the mandates.”

He added, “I have said from the beginning that I support the COVID-19 vaccines and consider them to be one of the many, great accomplishments of the Trump Administration. But, President Biden has completely dropped the ball on this effort. We need leadership, not mandates.”

Brooks indicated that he believes a vaccine requirement as well as forcing employees to present a negative test is in confliction to “liberty and freedom.”

“I support liberty and freedom. Forcing government employees to either take the vaccine or subject themselves to COVID-19 tests every four days conflicts with liberty and freedom, particularly where neither mandate is forced on senators, congressmen or our staffs,” said Brooks. “I see no reason to force any citizens to do what senators, congressmen, or our staffs are not similarly forced to do. Citizens should not have less liberty and freedom than America’s elected federal officials. What is good for the goose is good for the gander.”

EDITOR’S NOTE: This story has been updated to reflect the nuclear plants in Alabama the vaccine mandate could affect.

Dylan Smith is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @DylanSmithAL