TVA looks to nuclear for cleaner future

23 August 2010

The Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) has formally adopted a vision for the future that relies more on nuclear energy and less on coal, while approving the budget to help achieve it. 


Watts Bar (TVA)
Watts Bar: heading for completion (Image: TVA)

The government-owned corporation's board of directors has approved a renewed vision that TVA says will enable it to become one of the USA's leading providers of low-cost cleaner energy by 2020. Central to that is a focus on improved air quality and greater efficiency, with the eventual replacement of some of its older coal-fired generation capacity with cleaner low-carbon sources such as nuclear power.
"TVA's vision to lead our nation toward a cleaner energy future means relying more on nuclear power," CEO Tom Kilgore told board members. "Much of our stakeholder input and other assessments point toward a greater reliance on nuclear power and energy efficiency and less reliance on coal," he said. Nevertheless, he promised, the corporation would not lose its focus on electricity rates, reliability and reputation while striving to reduce its carbon intensity.
While TVA will use renewable energy where practical, "limitations on wind and solar power in [TVA's] service territory make nuclear the preferable source for carbon-free generation, particularly for critical base-load applications," the company's vision notes.
To help fulfil its vision, TVA is working on a new Integrated Resource Plan, assessing the utility's options for fulfilling its mission over the next two decades. A draft version of the plan is expected to be released for public comment in September 2010. The finalised version is expected to be completed in the first part of 2011. In the meantime, however, the TVA board approved a fiscal 2011 budget which includes provisions that will help it to increase its nuclear capacity by completing two partially built reactors at Watts Bar and Bellefonte.
Work at Watts Bar units 1 and 2 and Bellefonte units 1 and 2, all pressurized water reactors (PWRs), was suspended in the mid-1980s in response to an anticipated decrease in power demand. Watts Bar 1 was subsequently completed and has been in commercial operation since 1996. With electricity demand now expected to rise, TVA resumed work on Watts Bar 2 in 2007. The fiscal 2011 budget sets aside $635 million for construction work at the Tennessee plant, which is due to come online in 2013.
The budget also includes $248 million for work at the Bellefonte site in Alabama, where TVA has been considering whether to complete one of the two partially built units or build a new reactor. Earlier this year it announced that its preferred option was the completion of Bellefonte unit 1, which was some 88% complete when work was suspended. A board decision on whether to go ahead with the project is expected in 2011.
TVA is the USA's fifth largest electricity generator in terms of capacity, with a remit which also includes flood control, navigation and land management for the Tennessee River system as well as assisting with economic development in the seven states in which it operates. Its generation portfolio includes coal, gas, nuclear and hydro power plants as well as a small amount of renewable energy generation capacity.


Researched and written

by World Nuclear News