TVA: Watts Bar Unit 2 may be operational by year's end

Watts Bar nuclear plant
Watts Bar nuclear plant | Tennessee Valley Authority

The Tennessee Valley Authority’s Watts Bar Unit 2 plant is in the final phases of construction, and a TVA official recently said it is on track to be the first new nuclear plant of the 21st century.

The TVA said the facility, upon completion, will generate approximately 1,150 megawatts of safe, carbon-free power. It’s estimated that Unit 2 will help TVA avoid emissions of 6 to 8 million tons of carbon dioxide a year.

“We’re on track as far as the estimate to complete that we set up in 2012, and so as far as confidence goes, I feel good about commercial operation at the end of 2015 and fuel load late this summer,” Joe Grimes, executive vice president and chief nuclear officer of the Tennessee Valley Authority.

The TVA said this week that the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission has granted its Office of Nuclear Reactor Regulation the approval to issue a full-power operating license at Watts Bar Unit 2 once it inspects the unit to verify it is following regulations.

Grimes said the decision to build Watts Bar Unit 2 had much to do with the need for additional base-load generation. “We were looking for clean, reliable and affordable generation, and we were also looking to diversify our overall generation portfolio as a fleet,” Grimes said.

“Nuclear energy is obviously a low-cost, very reliable way to generate base-load electricity. It provides energy security, and quite frankly, it’s a clean-air approach to electricity generation,” Grimes said.

Construction activities at the facility are in the final stages. “We’re doing start-up testing and pre-operational testing, and that’s going well so far. And we’re also working on dual-unit transition activity, so we’re fully ready for the plan,” Grimes said.

The Nuclear Energy Institute said that a May 4 staff paper from the NRC said TVA has not requested a low-power operating license as an interim step, and that the NRC will issue a full-power license based on Watts Bar Unit 2’s similarity and shared systems with reactor 1, which TVA has successfully operated for nearly 20 years.

Watts Bar Unit 1’s 1996 startup makes it the last U.S. reactor to have received an operating license.

The Nuclear Energy Institute said construction on both Watts Bar reactors began in 1973, but work on reactor 2 was suspended for commercial reasons in 1985 and did not resume until 2012.

Organizations in this story

Nuclear Energy Institute 1201 F St NW D.C., DC - 20004

U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission 11545 Rockville Pike Rockville, MD - 20852

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