NRC clears the environmental review of Watts Bar 2 extension

The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) is considering extending the latest construction completion date, to 2016, for the Tennessee Valley Authority and the Watts Bar Nuclear Plant (WBN) Unit 2 in Tennessee.

The NRC performed an environmental assessment related to that extension. Based on the results of the environmental assessment, the NRC said in a notice to be published in the Oct. 22 Federal Register that it has determined not to prepare an environmental impact statement for the action of extending the completion date of the construction permit, and is issuing a finding of no significant impact. That decision means a relatively rapid environmental review process.

The proposed action would extend the latest construction completion date from March 31, 2013, to Sept. 30, 2016. TVA submitted the construction permit request by letter dated May 17, 2012. TVA submitted that request at least 30 days before the expiration of the existing permit, therefore the existing construction permit will remain in effect until the NRC staff has completed the review of the request.

The construction permit for WBN Unit 2 was originally issued in January 1973. The completion date of the WBN Unit 2 construction permit has been extended numerous times since 1977, mainly for construction delays. In a July 2000, letter, TVA confirmed that WBN Unit 2 met the NRC’s definition of a deferred plant. In 2007, TVA informed the commission of its intent to restart construction and to complete construction and licensing of WBN Unit 2 by April 1, 2012. In 2008, TVA requested the construction permit completion date be extended from Dec. 31, 2010, to March 31, 2013.

In March 2012, TVA completed a detailed review of the status of WBN 2 construction and developed a revised estimate of the time necessary to complete the project. The results of the review came up with a completion range of September 2015 to June 2016, with the most likely date being December 2015. TVA is requesting Sept. 30, 2016, to ensure the entire completion range is covered, including a few extra months in case of additional delay, the NRC noted.

Watts Bar Unit 2 would add over 1,100 MW of capacity at the site, on top of the existing Unit 1 of a similar size. The project has gone through numerous delays and cost overruns, but TVA has said it has firm plans to complete it by around that December 2015 target.

About Barry Cassell 20414 Articles
Barry Cassell is Chief Analyst for GenerationHub covering coal and emission controls issues, projects and policy. He has covered the coal and power generation industry for more than 24 years, beginning in November 2011 at GenerationHub and prior to that as editor of SNL Energy’s Coal Report. He was formerly with Coal Outlook for 15 years as the publication’s editor and contributing writer, and prior to that he was editor of Coal & Synfuels Technology and associate editor of The Energy Report. He has a bachelor’s degree from Central Michigan University.