A Tennessee businessman now has until the end of November to finalize a two-year-old purchase agreement for the unfinished Bellefonte nuclear power plant in Alabama.
The Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA), which began building the plant in 1974 but ended construction in 1988 amid a downturn in the nuclear power industry, on November 9 said it has extended the deadline in its agreement with Franklin Haney’s Nuclear Development LLC (NDLLC) from November 14 to November 30. Haney now has another 16 days to complete the agreement to buy the plant’s assets.
Haney last week said legal and regulatory issues have delayed the sale’s closure. The project also has been dogged by allegations of payments to secure federal government support. And one of the project’s potential electricity customers recently signaled it may back away from a deal to purchase power from the plant.
Haney, a real estate developer who grew his business by buying and building properties that he then leases to local, state, and federal government interests, was the highest bidder for Bellefonte’s assets in an auction in November 2016. Haney at that time made a down payment of $22 million toward his $111 million bid for Bellefonte, and was given two years to complete the purchase. The plant’s assets include two unfinished Babcock & Wilcox pressurized water reactors, along with cooling towers, switchyards, and offices at the site.
Reports in recent years have said TVA has spent $6 billion to $11 billion on the Bellefonte plant since its design was first discussed in 1968.
Reports of Payments to Secure Federal Loan
Local business and government leaders met in July near the plant in Hollywood, Alabama, to discuss Haney’s plans to finish construction. The Wall Street Journal in August reported that Haney had been a major donor to President Donald Trump. The Journal said Haney in April agreed to pay $10 million to then-Trump attorney Michael Cohen if Cohen could help Haney obtain funding for the Bellefonte project, including a $5 billion government loan. The report also said Haney, through a business entity, paid $1 million to help fund Trump’s inauguration.
Larry Blust, an attorney for Haney, told the Journal that “Neither Mr. Haney nor Nuclear Development LLC ever entered into a contract with Michael Cohen or his affiliate for lobbying services related to the Bellefonte project.”
The Washington Examiner in August reported that Cohen was offered a $10 million “success fee” if he could secure the loan. It also said Cohen was paid a monthly retainer and “had made calls in the spring to the Energy Department to see if there was any way to speed up the approval process.” The Examiner said the agreement between Haney and Cohen was later withdrawn, and that “Cohen never registered as a federal lobbyist.”
Judicial Watch, which calls itself “an American conservative activist group … that files Freedom of Information Act [FOIA] lawsuits to investigate claimed misconduct by government officials,” in September filed a FOIA lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) for all communications related to Cohen and the application for the $5 billion loan guarantee for the Bellefonte plant.