TVA fires Watts Bar project manager

TVA fires Watts Bar project manager

January 30th, 2011 in News

Staff Photo by Dan Henry Construction continues on TVA's Unit 2 reactor at Watts Bar Nuclear Plant near Spring City, Tenn.

The Tennessee Valley Authority fired the head of America's biggest nuclear power plant construction project on Friday with the $2.5 billion program still two years away from completion.

Masoud Bajestani, one of TVA's top nuclear managers in charge of completing the Unit 2 reactor at the Watts Bar Nuclear Plant, left the Spring City, Tenn., plant Friday afternoon when his five-year contract for the Watts Bar project was terminated after less than four years.

TVA Communications Vice President David Mould said Bajestani's departure "was not related to his work on the Watts Bar project." But he declined to discuss why Bajestani was dismissed.

Bajestani, a Chattanooga resident who was living near the Watts Bar plant in Rhea County, could not be reached Saturday.

TVA senior project manager Marie Gillman was appointed interim manager for the Watts Bar project, according to TVA spokesman Terry Johnson.

Mould said the change in leadership shouldn't delay the utility's plan to finish the new reactor and begin generating power at the new unit in 2013.

"The project is going extremely well and is on time and on budget," Mould said.

Bajestani is a 54-year-old nuclear engineer from Iran who previously helped direct the restart and rebuilding of TVA's Browns Ferry Nuclear Plant in Athens, Ala. He was appointed in 2007 to direct the completion of the unfinished Unit 2 reactor at Watts Bar, which Mould said is on scheduled and on budget.

Bajestani earned $619,000 in income and bonuses, according to testimony in his divorce proceedings last year. He testified in that case that he also was eligible for performance bonuses and at least another year on his contract beyond 2012 if the new reactor is completed as scheduled.

TVA began building the Unit 2 reactor at Watts Bar in 1974 but suspended work in 1985 until the project was revived in 2007. The unit is scheduled to be the first new commercial reactor completed in the United States in the 21st century and will be capable of supplying the power needs of two cities the size of Chattanooga.

Contact Dave Flessner at dflessner@timesfreepress.com or at 757-6340.