TVA uprate returning reactor and consider more

08 March 2007

Browns Ferry 1, a boiling water reactor that first supplied 1100 MWe to the grid in 1974, will return to service in 2007 uprated and refurbished to generate 1155 MWe. The chance is "better than 50/50" that the plant's owners would finish constructing one of three other reactors.

The US Nuclear Regulatory Commission approved the change to Browns Ferry 1's rating on 6 March, after considering changes to the nuclear steam supply systems, instrumentation & control and electrical systems, and accident evaluations among other things.

Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) started work on the three-unit plant in 1967, completing the units between 1973 and 1976. However, the company experienced operational problems and the commercial decision was made to shut the units down in 1985.

At about the same time the company also halted construction work on three other units: Watts Bar 2 and Bellefonte 1 and 2. All three are pressurized water reactors; they are rated at 1177, 1213 and 1213 MWe; and stand 50%, 88% and 50% completed respectively.

The capital investment in the out-of-service and uncompleted nuclear plants left publicly-owned TVA with significant levels of debt, which the company is only now beginning to reduce.

TVA brought Browns Ferry 2 and 3 back into service in 1991 and 1995 respectively. Owners Tennessee Valley Authority already hold a licence to operate unit 1 and expect to return it to service later this year.

TVA's CEO Bob Kilgore recently explained that completing partly constructed reactors would be more economic than starting whole new projects. He added that the chances of TVA completing Watts Bar 2 or one of the Bellefonte units once the Browns Ferry 1 project is finished were "better than 50-50." In July, TVA should receive a recommendation from contractors concerning the possibility of completing Watts Bar 2.

In addition, TVA has put forward Bellefonte as a site for the Nustart consortium to submit an application to build a new nuclear power plant. A 2004 study showed that two General Electric Advanced BWRs supplying about 1400 MWe could be built at Bellefonte in 40 months for around $2.2 billion each.

Further information

Tennessee Valley Authority

Nuclear Regulatory Commission

WNA's US Nuclear Power Industry information paper