Plant operators at the Watts Bar Nuclear Plant near Spring City, Tenn., shut down the reactor Saturday when a problem was discovered in the condenser that helps convert steam back into water in the feedwater system on the non-nuclear part of the plant.
The Unit 1 reactor ceased generating power about 11 a.m. Saturday and will remain offline while TVA employees try to figure out what caused a loss of a vacuum in a part of the condenser.
TVA spokesman Jim Hopson said there was never any danger to the public or plant personnel but operators manually shut down the reactor when they saw the condenser problem.
"This was an uncomplicated trip, meaning that everything worked exactly as it was supposed to, but we had to bring the reactor offline until we determine the source of the problem," he said.
Hopson said warmer weather over this weekend has significantly lowered TVA's power demand from Thursday's peak levels, "so we do not expect the temporary loss of Watts Bar Unit 1's generation to create any issues for the transmission system."
"Of course, the team is working with a sense of urgency to find and correct the problem so the unit can be restored to service as soon as possible," Hopson said.
The 1,121-megawatt reactor is capable of generating enough power to serve the electricity needs for about two cities the size of Chattanooga. Prior to today's shutdown, the unit had been running for 220 consecutive days.
TVA is constructing a second nuclear unit at the Watts Bar plant and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission could decide by spring whether to issue an operating license. Barring unexpected problems, TVA will begin hot functional testing of plant equipment in March and could load nuclear fuel in the reactor by June in order to start power generation by December.
Contact staff writer Dave Flessner at email@example.com or 423-757-6340.