As President Donald Trump's grand infrastructure plan hit the buffers earlier this year, his former attorney, Michael Cohen, was allegedly doing his own bit for the cause by seeking government funds for a mothballed nuclear project in Alabama, according to an Aug. 2 report in the Wall Street Journal.
Cohen was to be paid up to $10 million if he helped secure U.S. government funding for the unfinished Bellefonte plant after Franklin Haney—a Chattanooga, Tenn.-based real estate developer who donated the Trump inaugural fund but has also supported Democrats—agreed to hire the lawyer to win a $5 billion loan from the U.S. Department of Energy on April 9, according to the Journal, which cited people familiar with the matter (WSJ, 8/2).
A lawyer for Haney denied that he or his company, Nuclear Development, had signed such a contract with Cohen, however.
Nuclear Development agreed to buy the 2.47 GW Bellefonte project from the Tennessee Valley Authority for $111 million in 2016, with the sale process set for completion this November. Haney donated $1 million to Trump’s inaugural fund a month later, the Journal reported.
Cohen’s fees were to be linked to the amount of government funding he would have been able to secure. Cohen’s other consulting clients include AT&T and Novartis.
Work on the site of the Bellefonte project began at Hollywood, Ala., in 1975, but TVA suspended construction in 1988, at which point the project's two 1,235 MW Babcock & Wilcox reactors were only half-built.
Slowing power demand growth, construction cost overruns and regulatory concerns mean the project has been stalled for three decades.
But SNC-Lavalin, Bellefonte’s engineering, procurement, and construction contractor, signed a memorandum of understanding with engineering consultancy Enercon Services on June 27 as work on the facility resumed.
The Journal reported that Nuclear Development had spent $1.1 million since 2016 to lobby for nuclear funding, citing federal lobbying records.
TVA has spent $6 billion on the project over the last 40 years—Haney says Nuclear Development expects to spend more than twice that to finish it.