Watts Bar 2 clears NRC hurdle, gets more time

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has formally extended the current construction permit for the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) Watts Bar 2 nuclear plant in Rhea County, Tenn.

NRC issued an order Nov. 21 formally extending the current construction permit for the unfinished nuclear reactor until Sept. 30, 2016. TVA currently expects to finish the project in December 2015, the utility has said.

Parties opposing the Nov. 21 extension order can request a hearing within 20 days of its publication in the Federal Register, NRC said.

In October, NRC staff published an environmental assessment of the extension request, saying that finishing construction on the 1,100-MW pressurized water reactor (PWR) should have no significant impact on the environment.

The Westinghouse-designed reactor, where construction was initially suspended  many years ago, is “essentially the same” as the Watts Bar 1 operating unit at the station, NRC said.

TVA has told NRC that it intends to request an operating license for the nuclear unit in 2014.

Because TVA initially started building Watts Bar 2 decades ago, it pre-dates the currently NRC “combined” license system where construction and operation permits are addressed jointly. Watts Bar 2 falls under the old “Part 50” operating license guidelines, an NRC spokesperson said Nov. 25.

The 16-page document just published by NRC extends the construction completion date of the construction permit from March 31, 2013, until Sept. 30, 2016. TVA had requested the extension in May 2012.

TVA rededicated itself to reviving Watts Bar 2 in the spring of 2012 after announcing that the project would take longer and cost more than originally anticipated.

When the TVA board approved the Watts Bar 2 completion project in 2007, it predicted a 60-month construction schedule and a cost of $2.49bn. But in the spring of 2012, TVA said it would cost between $4bn and $4.5bn and be finished in the fourth quarter of 2015.

The Atomic Energy Commission (now NRC) first issued construction permits to TVA for Watts Bar Units 1 and 2 on Jan 23, 1973.

As for the current status, NRC said much of the operating license application has been completed. NRC said TVA has shown “good cause” to extend the construction permit.


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.