TVA Watts Bar 2 has officially entered ‘commercial’ operation

Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) President and CEO Bill Johnson will no longer have to answer questions about when the Watts Bar Unit 2 nuclear facility will enter “commercial” operation.

The nation’s first new nuclear generation in 20 years has officially entered commercial operation after the TVA’s Watts Bar Unit 2 successfully completed an extensive series of power ascension tests and reliably operated at full power for more than three weeks.

TVA marked the development in an Oct. 19 ceremony at the Spring City, Tennessee nuclear station. Watts Bar 2 first hit 100% power in late September. The addition of a second 1,150-MW pressurized water reactor (PWR) at the site means that the Watts Bar nuclear station has a generating capacity of roughly 2,300.

“TVA’s mission is to make life better in the Valley by providing reliable, low-cost energy, protecting our area’s natural resources and working to attract business and growth – all priorities simultaneously supported by the completion of Watts Bar Unit 2,” Johnson said.

“Watts Bar Unit 2 is a key part of our commitment to produce cleaner energy without sacrificing the reliability and low cost that draws both industry and residents to our area.”

In 2007, when the TVA board approved finishing construction of the incomplete nuclear project, it predicted a 60-month construction schedule and a cost of $2.49bn.

The completion project got off to a rough start, however. TVA rededicated itself to the project in 2012 and acknowledged that completing the project would cost much more than first expected.

The $4.7bn capital construction project was completed within the new budget set in 2012. The unit now moves to working asset status.

Watts Bar Unit 2 has already provided consumers across the Valley with more than 500 million kilowatt/hours of carbon-free energy during testing. It now joins six other operating TVA nuclear units to supply more than one third of the region’s generating capacity, and meeting the electric needs of more than 4.5 million homes.

Watts Bar, Sequoyah and Browns Ferry nuclear stations have also contributed to reducing TVA’s carbon emissions by 30% since 2005, a reduction that will rise to 60% by 2020.

“Nuclear power remains the only source of carbon-free energy that is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week,” said Joe Grimes, TVA executive vice president of generation and chief nuclear officer. “TVA believes that Watts Bar Unit 2, and other nuclear units like it across the Valley and the nation, represents a vital investment in our clean energy future.”

The Tennessee Valley Authority is a corporate agency of the United States that provides electricity for business customers and local power distributors serving more than 9 million people in parts of seven southeastern states.

TVA connected the long-anticipated Watts Bar 2 to the grid in early June. After the NRC issued an operating license for the unit last October, and 193 new fuel assemblies were loaded into the reactor vessel in late 2015. TVA announced at the end of May that the reactor achieved its first sustained nuclear fission reaction.

Initial construction on Watts Bar 2 originally began back in 1973, but construction was halted in 1985 after the NRC identified weaknesses in TVA’s nuclear program, according to the Energy Information Administration (EIA).

In August 2007, the TVA board of directors authorized the completion of Watts Bar 2, and construction started in October 2007. At that time, a study found Unit 2 to be effectively 60% complete with $1.7bn invested. The study said the plant could be finished in five years at an additional cost of $2.5bn.

Watts Bar Unit 1 started operation in 1996.

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.