ROGERSVILLE — The coal-burning John Sevier Fossil Plant, which provided electricity to the region for more than a half-century, will be reduced to a “brownfield” by this summer.
Meanwhile, its replacement, the natural-gas-powered John Sevier Combined Cycle Plant that went online in 2012, continues to generate about 925 megawatts daily.
The new gas plant serves approximately 600,000 customers in the region with what the Tennessee Valley Authority touts as much environmentally cleaner and cost effective electricity.
On Wednesday, the TVA and demolition contractor Brandenburg Industrial Services Inc. took members of the media on a tour outside of the old coal plant, which is in the process of being demolished.
The four steam turbines and generators have been removed from the turbine building, which has been completely gutted down to the basement. Only the roof and outer shell remain.
As of Wednesday, workers were almost finished with backfilling the turbine building basement with dirt up to ground level.
At the same time Wednesday on the other side of the plant, heavy mechanical shears were tearing out metal curtains in one of the four precipitators.
Once the turbine building and precipitators have been demolished and backfilled, the heater bay and coal bunker will be removed and backfilled, followed by the boiler house.
The smoke stacks will go down last.
Brandenburg project manager Tim Basford noted that most of the waste removal has already taken place including light bulbs and ballasts, hydraulic oils, motor oils, mercury, and asbestos to assure there is no contamination during demolition.
When all of the structures have been demolished, the slabs will be removed and the holes backfilled to ground level, leaving a flat, grassy field.
Bob Deacy, TVA vice president of general construction, estimates that about 50 acres of prime industrial property will remain once the demolition has been completed.
“We are committed to working with local officials for future use of this site,” Deacy said. “TVA has an economic development group that will work with the local officials as we look to determine what the future use of this site could be. The site is going to be left in what we call a brownfield state. Where the old coal plant once was, there will just be a grassy area that will almost look like a pasture. We call that brownfield because there will be some remaining infrastructure out there.”
Deacy said the property would be a good location for a wildlife preserve or an industrial park.
The future of the TVA boat ramp and shoreline fishing access to the dam is still undecided.
The John Sevier Fossil Plant was constructed in 1956 and continued to produce electricity until the new gas plant next door went online in 2012.
TVA spokesman Tim Hopson noted that environmental responsibility is part of the TVA’s mission.
That’s why unneeded structures such as the coal power plant are being removed “safely and in an environmentally responsible way so we can prepare the sight for potential reuse in the future, whether it’s by TVA or some other local agency.”
Hopson added, “Over the long term, if you determine you’re not going to need a facility anymore, it’s the responsible thing to do — to remove that facility, take care of any of the environmental concerns associated with it, and then potentially use that property again to help the people of the area.”
The coal plant emitted tens of thousands of tons of sulfur dioxide annually during its lifetime, topping out in 1974 at 100,000 tons. The gas plant produces no sulfur dioxide.
Similarly, the coal plant emitted thousands of tons of nitrous oxide annually, topping out at 17,000 tons in 1994, while the gas plant produces almost no nitrous oxide.
Carbon dioxide emissions from the coal plant topped out at six million tons in 1995. Currently the gas plant emits about two million tons of carbon dioxide.
Safety has also been a priority during the demolition.
As of Wednesday, the demolition project also has more than 150,000 man-hours worked with no reported injuries.