The Tennessee Valley Authority is refueling America's newest nuclear reactor after its first production cycle of nearly 17 months of power generation.
The Watts Bar Nuclear Plant Unit 2 was shut down over the weekend for its first scheduled refueling and maintenance outage after completing its first 18-month fuel cycle since the reactor became a commercial reactor more than three years ago. During the most recent production cycle, the reactor generated more than 13.5 billion kilowatthours of electricity.
"Our work during the first outage allowed Watts Bar Unit 2 to generate safe, low-cost, carbon-free nuclear energy to reliably power daily life across the Tennessee Valley for 492 days," Tony Williams, Watts Bar site vice president, said in a statement. "During this outage, we will focus on safely improving our plant systems to deliver the next 18 months of safe, reliable service for the Valley."
During most of the next month while the unit is refueled, TVA's staff at Watts Bar will be joined with another 900 contract and other TVA workers to perform nearly 20,000 activities, including loading new fuel assemblies, inspecting equipment and equipment maintenance and upgrades.
Unit 1 went through its scheduled outage and maintenance break in September.
Watts Bar, which is located near Spring City, Tennessee, is capable of producing enough power for 1.3 million homes. TVA started power production at the Unit 2 reactor in October 2016 — a decade after Unit 1 began producing electricity or more than 42 years after TVA first began work on the nuclear plant.
Work on Watts Bar was stalled and delayed several times due to changing power demand, plant regulations and construction delays.
Together the two units can produce about 2,300 MW in generating capacity.
The two reactors at Watts Bar are among seven nuclear units operated by TVA, which derives about 40 percent of its generated power from nuclear stations.