Watts Bar unit 2 will not enter commercial operation until 2013, the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) has announced. The reactor had been due to enter service during 2012.
TVA says it is reviewing the construction and licensing schedule for the 86%-complete 1270 MWe pressurised water reactor (PWR), but chief operating officer Bill McCollum has said that the company will not now meet its "aggressive" 60-month timetable to complete the reactor. A licensing delay related to an Atomic Safety and Licensing Board hearing on an aquatic issue, plus the need to integrate safety modifications following the Fukushima accident in Japan, will also impact on the schedule, said TVA.
The authority is working with construction contractors to develop a detailed timetable for completion of the plant and to assess the impact on costs, McCollum said, although a more accurate assessment of costs will be made when the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) issues a final report on Fukushima-related changes. Nevertheless, according to McCollum, the overall impact on the cost of electricity from Watts Bar 2 is expected to be small.
New fuel assemblies for use in the plant have now begun arriving at the site after the NRC issued the relevant licence, although the unit has yet to receive an operating licence. According to NRC plans, this is likely to be issued around October 2012.
Nuclear power features heavily in TVA's plans to satisfy electricity demand in the Tennessee Valley region over the next two decades, ranging from the addition of 1150 MWe from completion of Watts Bar unit 2 up to the addition of a maximum of 5900 MWe of nuclear capacity in the period 2014-2029. TVA's own studies have shown that the completion of unfinished nuclear units will produce lower-priced power than construction of new plants.
A formal decision on whether or not to proceed with the completion of a partly built unit at the Bellefonte site in Alabama, identified by TVA as a preferred option, is expected this month. Bellefonte 1 was about 90% complete when work was suspended in 1988, but it is now considered about 55% complete as many of its components have been sold or transferred and others will need to be upgraded or replaced.