Watts Bar 2 receives operating licence

22 October 2015

The US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has issued a 40-year operating licence to the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) for Watts Bar unit 2. The unit is the first to receive NRC authorization since Watts Bar 1 in 1996.

TVA CEO Bill Johnson announces WB2 licence - 460 (TVA)
TVA CEO Bill Johnson announces the issuance of Watts Bar 2's operating licence
(Image: TVA)

The licence allows Watts Bar 2 to operate until 22 October 2055. Receipt of the operating licence marks the end of construction on the pressurized water reactor near Spring City, Tennessee. Preparations are now under way for initial fuel load, and TVA said that the unit is on schedule for operation in early 2016.

TVA suspended work on Watts Bar 2 in 1985 when the unit was about 55% completed, but extended the unit's construction permit prior to a decision to resume work in 2007 and the award of an engineering, procurement and construction contract to Bechtel. TVA updated its operating licence application in March 2009, and the regulator completed its environmental review in May 2013.

Bill Dean, director of the NRC's Office of Nuclear Reactor Regulation, said that after spending more than 200,000 hours over eight years on the licence application review, as well as conducting extensive safety reviews and inspections, the regulator was satisfied that Watts Bar 2 is safe to operate. "We already monitor unit 1's performance through our Reactor Oversight Process, which is used at all reactor sites throughout the country, and we're adding Unit 2 to that system. Staff from our Region II office in Atlanta will ensure TVA meets its requirements as it loads fuel into Unit 2 and runs tests before the unit starts generating electricity," he said.

TVA Chief Nuclear Officer Joe Grimes said the completion and licensing of Watts Bar 2 was a "historic milestone" for the company and for the nuclear industry. "With the delivery of this unit, we are further positioning nuclear power as a key player in TVA’s - and the nation's - energy portfolio and instilling confidence in TVA and the nuclear industry," he said.

Tennessee governor Bill Haslam said the operating licence approval was an "exciting milestone and new chapter in Tennessee and TVA history".

Watts Bar 1 was the last US reactor to receive an operating licence from the NRC. The Watts Bar site is the first to comply with the NRC's Fukushima-related orders on mitigation strategies and spent fuel pool instrumentation, requiring all US nuclear power plants to implement strategies that will allow them to cope without their permanent electrical power sources for an indefinite amount of time and to install water level instrumentation in their spent fuel pools. Two resident NRC inspectors are stationed at the plant for day-to-day oversight of site activities, with an additional on-site resident inspector providing oversight of start-up activities at unit 2.

The decision to issue Watts Bar 2's licence means that there are now 100 commercial nuclear reactors licensed to operate in the USA.

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News