TVA moves toward full 9-member board as nominees vow to support small modular reactors, more renewables

(Originally published on Times Free Press)

For the first time in nearly three years, the Tennessee Valley Authority may soon have all of its presidential appointed leaders in place to oversee America’s biggest government utility.

East Tennessee State University President Brian Noland and former Tennessee Speaker of the House Beth Harwell, nominated by President Trump to fill the two vacancies on TVA’s 9-member board, and assistant attorney general Katherine Crytzer, nominated by Trump to serve as TVA’s inspector general, gained the support of U.S. senators Tuesday during their confirmation hearing before the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works. The U.S. Senate is expected to confirm the nominees in time for Dr. Noland and Dr. Harwell to join the TVA board at the next board meeting in August when TVA directors will set the fiscal 2021 budget.

Both Noland and Harwell voiced support for TVA continuing to explore the next generation of nuclear power by studying the possibility of building small modular reactors in Oak Ridge, as urged by U.S. Sen. Sen. Mike Braun,R-Indiana, the chair of the Senate panel that oversees TVA. The federal utility is working with both the Department of Energy in Oak Ridge and the University of Tennessee to consider building the new smaller reactors on the Clinch River near the Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

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Former House Speaker and ETSU president nominated to TVA board

President Donald Trump announced his intent to nominate former Republican Tennessee House Speaker Beth Harwell and East Tennessee State University (ETSU) President Brian Noland to the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) Board of Directors.

According to TVA, board members are nominated by the President of the United States and confirmed by the Senate. Each member serves for five years. 

Harwell became the first female speaker of the house in 2011. Since losing a race for governor in 2018, she has been working in the private sector and teaching classes, including one at Middle Tennessee State University.

Senator Lamar Alexander released a statement about Harwell’s appointment, saying, “I have encouraged and admired Beth Harwell and her style of leadership since she began her career in public service. Throughout her time in the Tennessee House of Representatives, and as Speaker of the House, Beth has worked with the TVA on several issues. She understands that TVA’s mission is to continue to provide cheap, clean and reliable electricity throughout the Tennessee Valley, and I know her leadership will be a valuable asset to the TVA board. I am glad President Trump nominated her, and I look forward to her confirmation by the United States Senate.”

Noland has been the president of ETSU since 2012. Previously, he was the chancellor of the West Virginia Higher Education System.

Alexander also championed Noland’s appointment in a formal statement, stating, “Brian is a respected leader in East Tennessee, and during his tenure as president, he has helped transform Tennessee’s fourth largest university, East Tennessee State University. His administrative experience makes him the right person to help keep TVA on a good path – to continue to provide clean, cheap, reliable electricity at the lowest possible rates for homes and businesses through the seven-state Tennessee Valley region. I hope the Senate will quickly consider his nomination and look forward to his confirmation.”