TVA tests verify equipment installed at Watts Bar Unit 2 in Spring City, Tenn.

TVA tests verify equipment installed at Watts Bar Unit 2 in Spring City, Tenn.

May 8th, 2013 by Dave Flessner in Business Around the Region

Workers walk through the Unit 2 construction site at Watts Bar Nuclear Plant in Spring City, Tenn.

Photo by Dan Henry /Times Free Press.

Equipment tests to verify the reliability of safety systems installed at TVA's newest nuclear plant have not detected any problems so far, TVA officials told regulators Tuesday.

In a status meeting with the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission in Atlanta, TVA top nuclear officials said the utility has improved procedures and rechecked equipment at the Watts Bar Unit 2 reactor being built near Spring City, Tenn.

Last year, the NRC cited TVA with three apparent violations for installing thousands of parts at Watts Bar that were not documented or tested for nuclear-grade quality and for not following proper quality control to detect the documentation failure.

Ric Wiggall, senior engineering manager at Watts Bar, acknowledged Tuesday that TVA likely violated NRC requirements for equipment verification in the new Unit 2 reactor. In response, TVA is reviewing more than 550 parts or safety systems and has overhauled its equipment verification process.

"We are greater than 80 percent complete with evaluations and testing," Wiggall told NRC officials reviewing TVA's license violations. "Results to date have confirmed that the components or systems meet the criteria to be able to perform their safety functions. To date, no safety significance has been identified, nor do we anticipate any safety significant issues once evaluations are tests have been completed."

TVA spokesman Mike Bradley said the testing for all of the suspect equipment should be completed by this summer. In its quarterly report filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission last week, TVA said it still expects to complete its work on building Watts Bar Unit 2 by 2015 at a cost between $4 billion and $4.5 billion.

TVA may still be fined by the NRC for installing commercial-grade equipment that had not been tested for the higher nuclear-grade quality at Watts Bar. NRC spokesman Roger Hannah said regulators will review TVA's report and issue its findings in the next few weeks.