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John Sevier Fossil Plant Is Coming Down

Demolition work at John Sevier Fossil Plant demonstrates TVA at it’s best: Working in an environmentally responsible way to restore the site of a former coal plant so that the land can be used for economic development.

DECEMBER 8, 2016: It’s all blue skies and sunshine at John Sevier Fossil Plant on an early December afternoon as giant excavators tear into the side of the building, ripping out rusted sheets of what were once precipitator curtains designed to filter out emissions from exhaust.

Jon Sevier Demolition

It’s been a while since they’ve done their job—this plant was closed in 2012 as part of TVA’s portfolio realignment, an overall movement toward cleaner sources of energy, according to Bob Deacy, senior vice president of Generation, Construction, Products and Services. (Read more about TVA’s vision in our Integrated Resource Plan.) “Now we’re restoring this site to land that’s ready for redevelopment,” he explains. “We may find a home for a small industrial park here. Or this land may be set aside for natural conservation.”

The Four Ds

Since January 2016, the plant has been undergoing TVA’s D4 process. Richard Simmons, general manager of TVA’s decommissioning program explains that those “Ds” stand for:

  • Decomissioning: Disconnecting the plant from the grid
  • Deactivation: Making sure that all services to the plant are disconnected and that everything is “cold, dark and dry”
  • Decontamination: Removing asbestos and other potentially toxic substances from the site
  • Demolition: Tearing the plant down

John Sevier is in decontamination and demolition phases, and—with 150,000 work hours safely logged on the job—about 50 percent complete. Already, the turbine floor and basement have been excavated and demolished down to infrastructure level, and backfilled to 95 percent compaction; work on the precipitation segment of the plant is happening now. The plant’s stacks are next up. Last to go will be the heart of the plant, the boiler room. Altogether, the project is slated to be finished by autumn of 2017.

Digesting the Three Es

If you hear the word demolition and think of one big kaboom (explosion, implosion, what have you), think again. The process of demolishing John Sevier is more like digestion. Brandenburg, a specialized demolition company working on the project, uses a series of excavators to slice into the walls of the plant, to grab onto the construction materials, stack them, sort them and crush or cut them into reusable, recyclable or resalable bits and pieces.

“The excavators will chew all the concrete used in building the plant into fine rubble that can then be used to backfill the basement of the plant,” explains John Sevier site manager Mike Blevins. “All the metal will be sorted for recycling and reselling. We expect that we have about $10 million worth of metal here, which will pay for a significant portion of the demolition.”

No part of the former fossil plant will go to waste. In that way, demolition at John Sevier is proceeding in a way that’s not only economically but also environmentally friendly. “John Sevier shows all of our three Es in motion—energy, environmental stewardship and economic development all in one location,” says Deacy. “We are doing here what we do best: the right thing.”