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Unit 2 senior manager of operations Tom Wallace stands inside the unit 2 cooling tower of TVA's Watts Bar nuclear plant Wednesday, April 29, 2015, in Spring City, Tenn.
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TVA letter to NRC

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The Tennessee Valley Authority has asked regulators for an operating license to load nuclear fuel in its Unit 2 reactor at the Watts Bar Nuclear Plant to allow the unit to become the first new nuclear reactor to be turned on in America in nearly 20 years.

TVA sent a letter today to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission informing them that construction of the Watts Bar Unit 2 nuclear reactor is substantially complete. After completion of final testing, TVA said the unit should be ready to receive nuclear fuel for power generation. The letter provides a list of remaining key activities which will be finished prior to operations and requests that an operating license be issued for the unit.

For the NRC to issue an operating license, TVA must show that construction is substantially complete, that the facility will operate according to the license and that there is assurance the unit will have no adverse effect on public health and safety.

TVA said earlier this week it has successfully completed testing key equipment in the unit. The reactor is capable of generating 1,150 megawatts of power and is a twin unit to the other Watts Bar reactor which began operation in 1996.

TVA launched construction of Watts Bar in January 1973 but work has been started and stopped several times over the past four decades and regulations for new nuclear plants have been modified in the wake of the accidents at the Three Mile Island plant in Pennsylvania and the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant in Japan.

"Completion of hot functional testing and submittal of the substantially complete notification are among the historic milestones that continue to be achieved at Watts Bar Nuclear Plant as Unit 2 is completed and tested the right way safely, with quality and in a manner to ensure regulatory compliance and excellence in operations after licensing," Mike Skaggs, senior vice president of Watts Bar Operations and Construction, said in a statement.

After earlier cost overruns and delays, the TVA board authorized a revised work schedule and $4.2 billion budgetn April 2012 for TVA to complete the Unit 2 reactor at Watts Bar by the end of calendar 2015.

TVA President Bill Johnson said last week the project is 99 percent complete and "is on time and on budget" for its revised schedule adopted by the TVA .

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