TVA will pay $70k fine for Watts Bar nuclear Unit 2

Tennessee Valley Authority TVA Watts Bar nuclear power plant Unit 2 70k fine NRC Bellefonte nuclear

By Wayne Barber, Chief News Analyst, GenerationHub

The Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) will not appeal the NRC’s assessment of a $70,000 fine for violations during the ongoing construction project at the Watts Bar 2 nuclear plant, a TVA spokesperson said June 19.

"TVA accepts the fine and we will pay it,” a TVA representative told GenerationHub in an email. The spokesperson went on to say that TVA is addressing the issues that prompted the penalty and is determined that there will be no further budget overruns or schedule delays at the unfinished nuclear unit near Spring City, Tenn.

Watts Bar 2 is scheduled for completion by December 2015 and within a total cost of $4bn to $4.5bn. “We know there will be issues as we construct and bring Watts Bar 2 into operation, and we will resolve those in an effective and timely manner and in compliance with NRC regulations,” the TVA spokesperson said.

When the TVA board approved the project in 2007, it predicted a 60-month construction schedule and a cost of $2.49bn. In April 2012, TVA admitted it had initially done a poor job of analyzing what the project would entail.

But following a management shakeup at the Watts Bar project, the TVA board reaffirmed its commitment to completing the estimated 1,100-MW pressurized water reactor – albeit at the higher price.

NRC announced the proposed fine June 19 for the project’s commercial grade dedication program.

The NRC requires certain components in a nuclear plant to meet strict nuclear quality assurance standards. Commercial grade dedication is a process that provides reasonable assurance that components purchased from a commercial supplier are equivalent to nuclear grade items. This assurance is achieved through documented inspections, tests or analyses, NRC said in a statement.

“A comprehensive review and/or testing of approximately 98% of the items in question have has been completed to date and no issues have been identified,” the TVA spokesperson said. “We will complete the review by the end of this month and do not expect to identify any issues,” the representative added.

The NRC action at Watts Bar 2 is the latest hiccup in TVA’s plans to add more nuclear generation. TVA recently announced significant budget cuts and workforce reductions at its Bellefonte project in Alabama.

Like Watts Bar 2, Bellefonte is a nuclear plant project that first started developing decades ago but would later abandon for various reasons. A few years ago TVA decided to finish Watts Bar 2 for the carbon-free baseload power it could offer. TVA has long-range plans to also complete Bellefonte.

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