TVA boosts power output at newest Browns Ferry reactor

TVA boosts power output at newest Browns Ferry reactor

$475 million power upgrade program adds more generation at Alabama nuclear plant

July 24th, 2018 by Dave Flessner in Business Around the Region

TVA's Browns Ferry Nuclear Plant near Athens, Ala. set a record recently for having all three reactors run continuously for 285 days. Browns Ferry is TVA's oldest and biggest nuclear power plant.

Photo by Jay Reeves

TVA's Browns Ferry Nuclear Plant near Athens, Ala., includes three boiling water reactors. TVA is spending $475 million to upgrade the units to generate another 465 megawatts, or 155 megawatts per reactor.

TVA's Browns Ferry Nuclear Plant near Athens, Ala.,...

Photo by HANDOUT

The Tennessee Valley Authority has boosted the power output of its newest reactor of its oldest nuclear power plant, adding enough extra power to supply more than 90,000 homes.

The extended power upgrade at the Unit 3 reactor at the Browns Ferry Nuclear Plant in Alabama added 155 megawatts of power generation and will be matched with similar power upgrades at the other two Browns Ferry units by next spring. TVA spokeswoman Malinda Hunter said today that the Unit 3 reactor at Browns Ferry was restarted and achieved full power production this week following the power upgrade.

TVA expects to spend $475 million to add a total of 465 megawatts of additional base-load generation by installing new pumps, valves and other equipment for the uprated heat and power production at the boiling water reactors at Browns Ferry.

"Operating Unit 3 at the higher extended power uprate rating is an important first step toward safely and reliably generating more electricity from all three of our units," said Lang Hughes, Browns Ferry site vice president. "As we did during the recent Unit 3 outage, we'll install the final round of EPU modifications on Unit 1 in the upcoming fall outage and on Unit 2 in the spring outage in 2019."

Once the uprate work for all three units is complete, Browns Ferry will generate enough energy to supply another 280,000 homes in the Valley.

Power uprates allow utilities to revise equipment and operations in a reactor to boost the maximum heat output, or power level, for the reactor core. The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the federal agency that regulates nuclear power plants and sets the power output limits, must approve any upgrade in power generation.

Nuclear plant operators have used power uprates since the 1970s as a way to generate more electricity from their nuclear plants. Nationwide, the NRC has approved 164 uprates, resulting in a gain of 7,923 megawatts of power generation, or the generating capacity of about eight new nuclear reactors.

Browns Ferry has three of the seven total nuclear reactors operated by TVA. Hunter said TVA has no immediate plans to make any major power upgrades at either its Sequoyah or Watts Bar nuclear plants in Tennessee.

Nuclear power provides nearly 40 percent of all electricity used by more than 9 million people TVA serves in its 7-state region.