The Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) is continuing power ascension testing for Watts Bar Unit 2 and significant progress has been made as the federal utility seeks to confirm that the nuclear facility will operate as designed.
Unit 2 is expected to reach initial criticality in May with commercial operation in summer 2016 at a total estimated project cost of $4.7bn, TVA said in a recent update posted on its website. That’s within the range approved by the TVA Board earlier this year, TVA said.
Power ascension testing is the final phase in a program of comprehensive tests designed to ensure that Watts Bar Unit 2 is capable of delivering electricity safely, reliably and efficiently to TVA’s power system, the utility said.
The testing will continue beyond initial criticality, with plant systems and controls being monitored and tested as Unit 2 is gradually increased to 100% power, shut down and returned to full power operation. After the unit is returned to full power following the final shut down test and has operated for 20 days, it will be ready to be declared commercially operable.
After receiving its operating license from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) last fall, TVA reported in December that it had successfully loaded fuel at the nuclear unit.
TVA is currently targeting commercial operation of the second roughly 1,150-MW pressurized water reactor (PWR) in June, TVA has said.
NRC said recently that it has issued a letter to TVA indicating that a “chilled work environment” exists within the operations staff at the Watts Bar nuclear power plant near Spring City, Tennessee. NRC said TVA is taking steps to ensure that workers feel confident in reporting potential safety issues.