Watts Bar 2 begins commercial operation

20 October 2016

The USA's first new nuclear power reactor in 20 years - Watts Bar 2 - entered commercial operation yesterday, the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) announced.

Watts Bar 2 commercial operation - 460 (TVA)
TVA president and CEO Bill Johnson announces the start of commercial operation at Watts Bar 2 (Image: TVA)

The 1165 MWe (net) pressurized water reactor (PWR) reached first criticality in May and was synchronized to the grid in June. It has since undergone a series of detailed and highly rigorous tests at various power levels to ensure that all systems operate safely as designed. Power ascension testing was completed on 3 October.

TVA announced the unit has now entered commercial operation having "completed an extensive series of power ascension tests and reliably operated at full power for more than three weeks". The authority said the unit has already supplied "more than 500 million kWh of carbon-free energy during testing".

Watts Bar, near Spring City, Tennessee, is home to two nuclear reactors. Construction of both units first began in 1972, but was suspended in 1985. TVA subsequently decided to resume work on unit 1, which started up in 1996. In 2007, the authority took the decision to complete Watts Bar 2, which had been about 55% complete when construction was suspended. The unit's completion has incorporated upgrades in response to the Fukushima Daiichi accident of 2011 required by the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission of all US nuclear power plants.

The $4.7 billion capital construction project for Watts Bar 2 was completed on budget, TVA noted.

TVA president and CEO Bill Johnson said, "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."

He added, "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."

TVA is a US corporate agency providing electricity to customers across seven south-eastern states as well as providing flood control, navigation and land management for the Tennessee River system. As well as Watts Bar, its generation portfolio includes three boiling water reactors at Browns Ferry in Alabama and two PWRs at Sequoyah in Tennessee.

Joe Grimes, TVA executive vice president of generation and chief nuclear operator, said: "Nuclear power remains the only source of carbon-free energy that is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. 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."

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News