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TVA idling coal-fired plants, trimming workers

NORTH MISSISSIPPI — The Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) will idle nine coal-fired electric generating units, totaling about 1,000 megawatts, at three of its power plants beginning in fiscal year 2011.

Those units are: Shawnee Unit 10 near Paducah, Ky.; John Sevier Units 1 and 2 near Rogersville, Tenn., and Widows Creek Units 1-6 near Stevenson, Ala.

TVA announced the plans to its employees and the leaders of communities around the affected units yesterday.

Two units at the Widows Creek plant will be idled in fiscal year 2011, and four other units there will be idled between 2011 and 2015. Shawnee Unit 10 will be idled and evaluated for possible conversion to biomass fuel. Two units at John Sevier will be idled within the next four to five years.

Most TVA power plants have multiple generating units, and some units will continue to operate at all plant sites under yesterday’s announcement. In addition, natural gas-fired generation units are under construction at the John Sevier site. Additional natural gas and nuclear generating units are under construction at other TVA locations.

“We will work to lessen the impact on employees,” TVA president and CEO Tom Kilgore said. “We are looking at a number of ways to create new opportunities and options for most, if not all, employees affected. We do not expect that involuntary staffing reductions would be necessary, but we can make no guarantees. The units will be idled in phases, which will allow many affected employees time to plan and pursue new opportunities.

No employee layoffs are associated with the units being idled in 2011.

Coal-fired units are evaluated on the basis of original designs, economics and efficiency, overall performance, cost to operate and the cost to bring them into compliance with anticipated environmental regulations. Watts Bar Fossil Plant, which was shut down in 1983, was the last TVA coal-fired plant to be retired.

The TVA coal fleet consists of 59 units at 11 plants with about 15,000 megawatts of generation. Of that amount, about 8,000 megawatts are equipped with advanced environmental controls and will remain part of TVA’s long-term generating capacity. Other units totaling about 6,000 megawatts would require scrubbers or other advanced environmental equipment additions in the future. Those units will be evaluated to determine whether to install controls, idle them or replace them with alternative generation.

“This is a difficult step, but it’s the right thing to do,” Kilgore said. “We will work with employees and local communities to ease the transition.”

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