TVA eyes 465 MW of extra capacity from Browns Ferry uprates

The Tennessee Valley Authority said in its Nov. 15 annual Form 10-K report that it is undertaking an extended power uprate (EPU) project at its Browns Ferry plant in Alabama that is expected to increase the amount of electrical generation capacity of its nuclear reactors.

The license for each reactor must be modified to allow reactor operation at the higher power level. Because the license amendment requests (LARs) submitted by TVA to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission at the beginning of this project have been under review for an extended time due to uprate-related technical issues, the original amendment request was withdrawn and resubmitted in September 2015. If approved, the license amendment would allow all three units at Browns Ferry to increase capacity by 20% over original power levels, inclusive of projects previously completed on Units 1, 2, and 3 which resulted in a 5% increase in capacity.  

TVA said it expects to begin implementing the EPU project starting in the spring of 2018 for Unit 3, the fall of 2018 for Unit 1, and the spring of 2019 for Unit 2. TVA expects to complete the total project in 2024. The project involves engineering analyses and modification and replacement of certain existing plant components to enable the units to produce the additional power requested by the license amendments. These improvements will be ongoing in parallel with the NRC’s license amendment review process. The project is estimated to cost approximately $475 million and expected to add 465 MW of generating capacity.

These units are:

  • Browns Ferry Unit 1, 1,264 MW (nameplate), license expires in 2033;
  • Browns Ferry Unit 2, 1,190 MW (nameplate), license expires in 2034; and
  • Browns Ferry Unit 3, 1,190 MW (nameplate), license expires in 2036.

In September 2016, the environmental groups BEST and Mothers Against Tennessee River Radiation requested a hearing and sought to intervene in TVA’s license amendment request for extended power uprates at Browns Ferry. The petitioners contended that TVA’s application did not correctly report the potential risk from operating at increased power levels. TVA and the NRC staff filed answers opposing the petition to intervene in October 2016. The Atomic Safety and Licensing Board rejected the petition to intervene in November 2016.

In another nuclerar development, TVA said it submitted an Early Site Permit Application (ESPA) for review by the NRC in May 2016. This submittal is based on the development of a Plant Parameter Envelope reflecting application for two or more small modular reactor (SMR) units at TVA’s Clinch River site in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. TVA is considering the four SMR designs under development in the United States and will evaluate the designs and vendors for the SMR technology. TVA and the U.S. Department of Energy have entered into an interagency agreement to jointly fund licensing activities for the Clinch River site with DOE reimbursement of up to 50% of TVA’s eligible costs through 2020.

TVA is developing the Clinch River site on a schedule that supports submittal of a combined construction and operating license (COL) application to the NRC in 2019, in conjunction with supporting NRC’s review of the ESPA. This submittal is subject to sufficient progress being made by the SMR vendor(s) with their design certification(s), and a TVA decision to select a specific SMR technology and proceed with development of a COL application in 2017. A decision to actually build a SMR will need TVA Board approval.

About Barry Cassell 20414 Articles
Barry Cassell is Chief Analyst for GenerationHub covering coal and emission controls issues, projects and policy. He has covered the coal and power generation industry for more than 24 years, beginning in November 2011 at GenerationHub and prior to that as editor of SNL Energy’s Coal Report. He was formerly with Coal Outlook for 15 years as the publication’s editor and contributing writer, and prior to that he was editor of Coal & Synfuels Technology and associate editor of The Energy Report. He has a bachelor’s degree from Central Michigan University.