TVA Watts Bar 2 nuclear construction enters key phase

The Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) says it is still on track to launch commercial operation of the Watts Bar 2 nuclear plant in December 2015 at a total cost of between $4bn and $4.5bn.

TVA issued its sixth quarterly progress update on the Watts Bar 2 project on Jan. 16 in a report that covers the August through October 2013 time period. About 3,300 workers are at the Watts Bar 2 project, which will be TVA’s seventh nuclear unit.

Estimated completion of Watts Bar 2 is projected between September 2015 and June 2016, with a most likely completion date of December 2015.

Progress on the 1,100-MW Watts Bar 2 has gone better since TVA placed new management in charge of the project in 2012. when the TVA board approved the project in 2007, it predicted a 60-month construction schedule and a cost of $2.49bn.

“As the team continued to meet safety, quality, cost and schedule targets, we shifted our focus onto completing commodities, like valves and hangers, within specific systems and releasing those systems for testing,” said Mike Skaggs, TVA senior vice president for Watts Bar Operations and Construction on Jan. 16. “This is moving the project toward our major completion milestones.”

Specific systems are tied to certain milestones, and the schedule provides a logical sequence for completing and testing those systems.

“Two of those systems were released for pre-operational startup testing ahead of schedule during the quarter,” Skaggs said. “More than 35 additional systems are expected to begin startup testing this year, and we are moving toward several key project milestones, starting with open vessel testing.”

Open vessel testing involves pumping water through systems that are used when shutting down the reactor. This testing is scheduled to begin in the spring.

In addition to completing the started-but-never-completed Watts Bar 2, TVA is also looking to add new small modular reactors  (SMRs) by the end of 2022. In late 2013, however, TVA CEO Bill Johnson indicated the long-discussed Bellefonte nuclear project in Alabama is back on the back-burner until the power market improves.

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.