Watts Bar Unit 2 passes key milestone on path to operating license

The Tennessee Valley Authority’s Watts Bar Nuclear Plant Unit 2 has cleared a major milestone toward being the country’s first new nuclear generation of the 21st century. A key advisory group for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission has recommended moving forward with the process to grant an operating license for Watts Bar Unit 2.

            In a letter to the NRC Chairman, the Advisory Committee on Reactor Safeguards noted that “there is reasonable assurance that WBN 2 can operate as the second unit of the dual unit Watts Bar Nuclear Plant without undue risk to the health and safety of the public.”

            “This completes a critical regulatory step in the process to start up the nation’s first new nuclear unit in 20 years,” said TVA Chief Nuclear Officer Joe Grimes. “This is a major milestone that will bring clean, reliable energy and economic benefits to TVA, the Tennessee Valley and the industry for decades.” According to Grimes, the committee’s conclusion on TVA’s preparedness and ability to operate a dual-unit station is the result of six years of discussions, interactions and meetings through which TVA has demonstrated that Unit 2 is being completed the right way – safely, with quality, and in a manner to protect the general public.

            As an independent body within the NRC, the Advisory Committee on Reactor Safeguards made the recommendation to proceed with the licensing process after reviewing the results of hundreds of detailed inspections and thousands of pages of documentation to ensure that Watts Bar Unit 2 will meet regulations and standards for safe and efficient operation.  Their recommendation is part of the information NRC commissioners will consider when making a final decision on issuing an operating license for Watts Bar Unit 2.

            “Reaching this point has taken the hard work and commitment of thousands of TVA and contract employees,” said Mike Skaggs, senior vice president of Watts Bar Operations & Construction.  “While we have a significant amount of complex work remaining to complete Unit 2, we remain focused on delivering Unit 2 safely, with quality and in a manner to assure regulatory compliance and excellence in operations following licensing.”

            Located near Spring City, Tenn., Watts Bar Unit 2 is approximately 95 percent complete and remains on target to begin commercial operations between September 2015 and June 2016 at a total cost of between $4.0 billion to $4.5 billion.  When online, it will produce 1,150 megawatts of carbon-free electricity – enough to meet the needs of 650,000 homes.

            Watts Bar Unit 2 will join TVA’s six other operational nuclear units and become part of an increasingly diverse portfolio of reliable, cleaner and low-cost generating sources that allow TVA to continue its mission of service to the Tennessee Valley.

            The Tennessee Valley Authority is a corporate agency of the United States that provides electricity for business customers and local power distributors serving 9 million people in parts of seven southeastern states. TVA receives no taxpayer funding, deriving virtually all of its revenues from sales of electricity. In addition to operating and investing its revenues in its electric system, TVA provides flood control, navigation and land management for the Tennessee River system and assists local power companies and state and local governments with economic development and job creation.