Tennessee Valley Authority officials said without the upgrades to the workhorse Gallatin Fossil Plant that runs 24 hours a day and burns 13,000 tons of coal daily, it probably wouldn't meet future U.S. Environmental Protection Agency rules and would have to shut down.
The upgrades will see the installation of four large scrubbers to cut down on sulfur dioxide emissions and a catalytic system to reduce nitrogen oxide levels, The (Nashville) Tennessean reported Monday.
"SO2 is sulfur dioxide, and by removing 90 to 95 percent, it is cleaning up the atmosphere of the Tennessee Valley," Larry Nathan, who works with TVA's generation construction group, said.
However, some environmental groups argue the TVA could find better uses for the $1 billion.
"For what you will pay for the pollution controls on a doomed coal plant," Louise Gorenflo, a volunteer with the Tennessee Chapter of the Sierra Club, said, "you can replace Gallatin and be well on the way to joining other modern utilities in generating energy savings.
"Seriously, invest the money in energy efficiency that you intend to waste on unhealthy and dangerous technologies," she told a meeting of the TVA board last week.