TVA Watts Bar construction on schedule for startup next year

TVA Watts Bar construction on schedule for startup next year

May 2nd, 2014 by Dave Flessner in Local - Breaking News

The cooling towers of the TVA Watts Bar Nuclear Plant in Spring City, Tenn.

Photo by Associated Press/Times Free Press.

The Tennessee Valley Authority said toay that Watts Bar Nuclear Plant's Unit 2 reactor remains on schedule to begin generating power by the end of next year as the first new nuclear power plant of the 21st century.

With 3,200 contractors now working around the clock to finish the Unit 2 reactor near Spring City, Tenn., TVA Vice President Mike Skaggs said today that the project remains within its $4.2 billion budget for completion and is moving toward power generation by December 2015.

The focus of work on the Watts Bar Unit 2 has shifted from large-scale construction to completion and testing of individual plant systems, TVA said in a new quarterly update on Watts Bar released today.

Last week, TVA began initial testing of pumps and valves that supply water to the reactor core and Skaggs said nearly half of the new components being added during the current 5-year completion program have been successfully tested.

"We achieved a significant milestone during the quarter as the last major systems were completed and released to pre-operational startup in support of open vessel testing (OVT)," Skaggs said.

TVA began building Watts Bar 1973 and, after suspending work in 1985 for five years, completed the Unit 1 reactor in 1996 - the last new commercial nuclear reactor to be licensed in the United States.

The Unit 2 reactor will be the first new U.S. reactor built in two decades and the first since the 2011 Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster in Japan where a tsunami swamped safety systems and caused a nuclear meltdown at one of the reactors.

In response to the safety concerns raised by the Fukushimi accident, Skaggs said TVA is spending $200 million to upgrade safety systems at Watts Bar, including new flood protection measures at the riverfront plant.

Skaggs said TVA has completed more than 25 million work hours without a lost-time accident at Watts Bar and 97 percent of the equipment tested in the plant has passed initial quality control inspection without any modifications.