Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) President and CEO Bill Johnson said during a conference call that the federal utility expects to load fuel at the Watts Bar 2 nuclear project in “late summer.”
“At Watts Bar 2 nuclear plant we have entered the home stretch of completion of the reactor there,” but there are still some key milestones remaining, including getting an operating license from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) Johnson told business reporters and financial analysts on May 1.
“The next big milestone is hot functional testing,” Johnson said. That means testing all the systems to see that they work together. TVA expects that will happen this summer. NRC must also do an “operational readiness assessment” for the nuclear plant.
“We need to acquire an operating license,” Johnson said. The Watts Bar 2 facility falls under the old licensing regime at NRC, which involves separate issuance of first construction and then an operating license, he noted. NRC now offers a “combined” construction and operating license process for new plants.
The NRC Advisory Committee on Reactor Safeguard (ACRS) has already recommended that TVA receive the license.
Right now it appears that fuel loading will occur “toward the end of the summer,” Johnson said.
Pre-operation testing is underway. Watts Bar 2 will also be one of nation’s first to comply with NRC’s tougher post-Fukushima standards. Once in operation, Watts Bar 2 will produce 1,150 MW of carbon-free power, Johnson said.
After getting off to a rocky start toward development of the never-finished Watts Bar 2 facility, TVA has been relatively free of big problems since it did a major shakeup of the Watts Bar 2 completion project in 2012. TVA announced in the spring of 2012 that completed the never-finished Watts Bar 2 nuclear facility could cost up to $4.5bn, rather than the $2.49bn that was originally forecast back in 2007.
The Watts Bar station is located in Spring City, Tenn. The existing Watts Bar 1 facility will also undergo a planned refueling and maintenance outage in September, Johnson said.
Officially, Watts Bar 2 could come online anytime from September of this year under an “aggressive” plan to June of 2016 under the “upper range” of its planning. The “most likely” scenario calls for the plant to enter service in December of 2015 at a cost of $4.2bn.