Browns Ferry Water Tests Could Prevent Power Rate Increases

TVA's Browns Ferry nuclear power plant in Alabama

ATHENS, Ala. (AP) - Tennessee Valley Authority engineers say water temperature tests being performed on Wheeler Lake this week could improve efficiency at Browns Ferry Nuclear Plant and keep power rates from increasing.

A team of TVA engineers is collecting water temperature and velocity information from the lake to use in computer forecasting models, which can help run TVA's dams and nuclear plants more efficiently, the Decatur Daily ( reported.

TVA spokesman Scott Fiedler says this week's study includes 31 three-dimensional scanners placed in the lake at strategic points to take water temperature and velocity measurements at various depths.

Project manager Keith Davis says the complications stem from the lake's broad width near the nuclear plant. He said that during the summer the area experiences low water flow because Guntersville Dam is holding back water to maintain reservoir levels upstream.

"This is a little bit of a complicated part of the river," Davis said.

Technological advancements in collecting information and more computing power can produce an improved forecasting model, said Matt Boyington, a water source engineer with TVA.

"We want to bring in a more sophisticated system into our forecasting model," Boyington said. "The models help the plant know when to turn the cooling towers on and when to turn the towers off. Running the cooling towers is expensive."

Browns Ferry Nuclear Plant draws water from the lake through an intake pipe located in the river bank beside the plant. The intake pipe is on the bottom of the lake bed in order to draw the coolest water, Davis said.

TVA is continuously conducting water temperature and velocity field tests, but it's been several years since a study as extensive as this week's has been conducted, Davis said.

Copyright 2016 The Associated Press.

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