Enviro group seeks to reopen NRC case on TVA’s Watts Bar 2

The Southern Alliance for Clean Energy (SACE) has petitioned the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to reopen a case involving the operating license for the Tennessee Valley Authority‘s (TVA) Watts Bar 2 nuclear unit.

TVA is in the process of completing the never-finished Watts Bar 2 project. It hopes to load fuel and commence commercial operation of the roughly 1,100-MW pressurized water reactor (PWR) by the end of the year. After letting the unfinished reactor sit for years, TVA decided in 2007 to complete the unit.

The NRC’s Atomic Safety and Licensing Board (ASLB) had earlier denied SACE’s motion to reopen the record of the operating license proceeding for Watts Bar 2.

SACE seeks reopening of the record to admit a contention that seeks NRC staff review, in this operating license proceeding, of post-Fukushima safety issues. The NRC staff “has relegated [the issue] to a separate post-licensing proceeding. The Commission should review LBP-15-14 because it raises important issues of law and policy,” SACE said in its May 18 filing.

After the Fukushima earthquake and nuclear reactor disaster of 2011, the NRC’s Near- Term Task Force issued a report with a set of 12 recommendations, including instructing plants “to reevaluate the seismic and flooding hazards at their sites against current NRC requirements and guidance, and, if necessary, update the design basis and SSCs [structures, systems and components] important to safety to protect against the updated hazards,” SACE said.

As a result of TVA’s post-Fukushima investigations, Watts Bar 2 was identified as a reactor for which the seismic risk exceeded the design basis, SACE said.

TVA plans to submit additional information by December 2016. SACE claims that the ASLB improperly interpreted the burden of proof.

“In effect, the ASLB transformed TVA’s burden of showing that WBN2 [Watts Bar Nuclear 2] can be operated safely and the NRC Staff’s burden of confirming that it can be operated safely to a burden shouldered by SACE of showing that WBN2 cannot be operated safely,” SACE said.

“Equally important, the Staff must complete its review before WBN2 begins to operate and not some time later,” SACE went on to say.

“Finally, the ASLB’s decision is inconsistent with the Near Term Task Force recommendation that safety issues raised by post-Fukushima investigations should be resolved before the NRC makes an operating license decision for WBN2,” SACE went on to say in the petition.

The petition was filed for SACE by Washington, D.C. attorney Diane Curran.

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.