TVA to focus short term on finishing Watts Bar 2 nuclear unit

The Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) is reshuffling its contractor workforce as it seeks to wrap up construction of one never-completed nuclear reactor in Tennessee before shifting more attention toward a second one in Alabama.

TVA said March 15 it is reducing the number of contractors supporting its Bellefonte nuclear project in Alabama.

With construction at Bellefonte not beginning until fuel is loaded at Watts Bar 2, “we are resetting priorities at the site,” David Stinson, TVA’s vice president, Bellefonte project said in a news release.

About 900 contractors support the Bellefonte project with almost half of the contractors working at the site and the remainder in satellite offices at other locations. Of the 430 affected contractor positions, only about 85 individuals work at the Bellefonte site. “We began releasing contract workers supporting Bellefonte this week and will continue through mid-May,” said Stinson. “About 20% percent of the affected contractors are working locally at the site.”

TVA has plans to increase its electric generation from both nuclear and natural gas plants.

This effort involves completing two reactor units left over from its nuclear building spree in the 1970s and 1980s: Watts Bar 2 in Tennessee and Bellefonte in Alabama. The unbuilt projects went into cold storage years ago due to a combination of increased construction costs and plummeting demand for power generation, said a TVA spokesperson.

TVA had already said in a Feb. 16 press release that the 1,150-MW Watts Bar 2 in Tennessee won’t be finished in 2013 as it had hoped, nor would it hit the previous cost estimate of $2.49bn.

“We could spend significantly more than $2.49 billion on Watts Bar Unit 2 and it would still be a cost-effective plant,” TVA President and CEO Tom Kilgore said in February. TVA will announce an updated cost estimate and timetable for Watts Bar 2 this spring.

TVA also announced last August that it would complete construction of the never-finished Bellefonte nuclear project in Alabama in hopes of bringing it into commercial operation between 2018 and 2020. Once operational, Bellefonte will have a generating capacity of 1,260 MW.

TVA has said that Bellefonte will be a $4.9bn capital project. Also on the drawing board is development of a small modular reactor, designed by Babcock & Wilcox, which TVA hopes to locate its Clinch River site in Tennessee.

In 2007 TVA successfully restarted its long-idle Browns Ferry 1 nuclear unit in Alabama. The Browns Ferry revival was a $1.9bn capital project.

TVA has adopted a philosophy that it will not be involved in actual construction of more than one nuclear project at a time, a spokesperson for the federal utility said March 16.

About Wayne Barber 4201 Articles
Wayne Barber, Chief Analyst for the GenerationHub, has been covering power generation, energy and natural resources issues at national publications for more than 20 years. Prior to joining PennWell he was editor of Generation Markets Week at SNL Financial for nine years. He has also worked as a business journalist at both McGraw-Hill and Financial Times Energy. Wayne also worked as a newspaper reporter for several years. During his career has visited nuclear reactors and coal mines as well as coal and natural gas power plants. Wayne can be reached at wayneb@pennwell.com.