TVA looks to expand base of power production

SPRING CITY, TENNESSEE - In addition to encouraging energy efficiency and tightening its own business operations, TVA is addressing higher fuel costs by moving forward with plans to expand its base of nuclear power generation plants.

In a news teleconference, TVA President and CEO Tom Kilgore said the uranium fuel required to power its nuclear plants is relatively inexpensive compared to coal and natural gas, which this year have risen at an unprecedented clip.

The agency recently has re-started a reactor at Browns Ferry in Athens., Ala., and is currently in the process of deploying an existing unit at its Watts Bar plant near Spring City, Tenn.

TVA is also moving forward with plans to construct two new reactors at the Bellefonte site and filed an application for a construction operation permit last fall.

In a more recent development, the agency also has begun exploring the possibility of restarting two partially completed reactors at the Bellefonte site, although details on the potential project have yet to emerge.

Construction of the two reactors at the site near Scottsboro, Ala., was begun in 1974 and halted in 1988, with the first unit 88 percent complete and the second unit 55 percent finished. TVA invested $4.2 billion in the project.

"What we're doing really is just looking at the feasibility of what we call units one and two, the existing units there," said TVA spokesman John Moulton. "We're just right now exploring the feasibility of what it would take as far as licensing, (construction), the whole ball of wax.… We're looking right now, along with our energy efficiency push, (at) what (are the) best ways to meet the needs out there in the future."

Options for the timing of the re-start are being considered with construction schedules for the reactors in mind.

"Our main focus for the site continues to be the new start," he said.

Moulton said he did not have information on when TVA planned to make a decision on the re-start, which would require a construction license from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. TVA had withdrawn its existing construction permit.

The Huntsville Times of Alabama quoted TVA spokesman Gil Francis as saying that energy forecasts show more power plants may be needed between 2017 and 2019 and that was why the utility is considering finishing Units 1 and 2.

Kilgore said that nuclear generation lies at the heart of the agency's future power production plans.

"TVA is strategically building its nuclear generation portfolio, which will reduce the Valley's exposure to volatile commodity fuel prices," an information slide presented to reporters at the Web and teleconference said.


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