Watts Bar achieves startup milestone

The TVA Watts Bar Nuclear Plant is photographed on Thursday, Oct. 22, 2015, near Spring City, Tenn.

The Tennessee Valley Authority shut down its newest reactor today, but the trip was planned and all part of another critical test as Watts Bar Unit 2 moves closer to commercial operation by the end of summer.

TVA spokesman Scott Brooks said Watts Bar operators safely and successfully completed the second of three controlled shutdown tests today, as part of the unit's power ascension testing program. TVA began generating power in May at the newest reactor at Watts Bar near Spring City, Tenn. - the first new nuclear unit to be added to America's power grid in two decades.

"After successfully completing all power ascension testing activities at the 75 percent reactor power plateau, operators lowered the unit to 30 percent power," Brooks said. "From there, they deliberately shut down the reactor using auxiliary controls as required by the test."

After reviewing the test data and resetting plant equipment, operators will soon bring the unit back on line and take the reactor to 100 percent of its 1,1500-megawatt generating capacity for the first time. Once the unit has operated at full power for 20 consecutive days, it will be declared commercial and TVÅ will begin to amortize the debt incurred to build the reactor.

TVA started building Watts Bar in 1973, but suspended work in 1988. TVA agreed in complete the unit 2 reactor in 2007 when it was projected to cost another $2.5 billion to finish. The project ultimately cost TVA $4.7 billion to complete, but TVA officials say that is still only half the costs of other new reactors being built in Georgia and South Carolina.

Contact Dave Flessner at dflessner@timesfreepress.com or at 423-757-6340.