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TVA Approves Completion of Watts Bar 2

From the AP:
The Tennessee Valley Authority's board of directors voted unanimously Wednesday to begin a five-year plan to finish a second nuclear reactor at the Watts Bar Nuclear Plant on the Tennessee River.

The plant, about 50 miles south of Knoxville at Spring City, was the last new nuclear plant to come on line in the United States when it fired up one of its two planned reactors in 1996.

The plan to finish it is expected to cost about $2.5 billion, likely funded by the public utility's revenues and adding debt. It was approved after a $20 million internal study on the feasibility of finishing the reactor determined it was already about 60 percent complete.
More great news, even better coming on the heels of the Unistar announcement last week. Congrats to everyone at TVA.


Anonymous said…
So what are the odds of seeing any other utility complete their mothballed plants?

WPPS3 is in a comparable state to Watts Bar 2.

Matthew B.
Alex Brown said…
To my knowledge Watts Bar 2 was the only unit that still had a valid construction liscensce anywhere in the US, so I think it is unlikely that any other old units will be finished due to that fact that the time and money saved from already having a liscensce was one of the major reasons TVA decided to complete Watts Bar 2 at this time.

On an unrelated note I watched the board meeting and about 20 people from the audience spoke concerning the completion of Watts Bar 2. OF these 75% were against and 25% were for the completetion although few if any of them were "regular people". By that I mean there were 3 Sierra club leaders, the leader of SACE, representatives for several other enviromental groups etc. Unfortunately the pro-nuclear people were also just as biased, a ORNL worker happy about new nuclear funding, the mayors of affected counties lobbying for more money etc. To get back to the anti-nuke people many repeated what I consider a very unfortunate line of reasoning concerning their stance that shows that groups like the NEI still have work to do in informing the public. Many essentialy said, "global warming is very bad, we need to stop global warming, therefore we shouldn't build this plant". Of course this is very flawed logic since the lifecycle CO2 emmisions of this plant are only a few percent of the other alternatives (and on par with solar and wind).
Matthew66 said…
$2.5 billion for an 1180 megawatt base-load power station seems like a pretty good deal to me. I never count the sunk costs as they are gone. When considering an investment, an entity should consider future costs and returns, as it cannot change the past.

I remember reading somewhere on the web that various companies have looked at finishing one or more of the incomplete WPPS reactors but concluded that it would be cheaper to start from scratch. Further, the socio-political climate in the Pacific Northwest is less open to nuclear power than that in the South. TVA is obviously betting that it can get an operating licence, such may not be the case in the NW.
Anonymous said…
Sometimes, sunk costs are a good indicator of future costs. If you already spent $4.0B on a plant that was supposed to cost $1.0B, then your new estimate of $2.5B may in fact be something more like $10.0B. That is probably not the case here, but time will tell.

To me, $2.5B seems a bit high for a plant that is already 60% complete. That would imply that that the construction cost should be on the order of $6.25B. A new plant of that rating should not cost more than about $3.0B in total, and it would have all of the benefits of modern technology.

In a related matter, I expect that TVA will not be pushing to get two AP1000 reactors constructed at Bellefonte any time soon since they will now be sending all of their near-term money over to Watts Bar 2. I see that as a negative for Toshiba / Westinghouse for their domestic AP1000 program. Progress has also pushed out their dates on the two AP1000 reactors in North Carolina. I think that Vogtle is the best near-term bet for new domestic AP1000 reactors. I do not see much of a push from Duke, Summer, or Progress Florida for purchasing long-lead items.
Matthew66 said…
Given that the Browns Ferry 1 restart came in on-time and on-budget, I expect that TVA have got their sums correct. If $4.0 bn has already been spent it's gone. If TVA do nothing with the site, there is no hope of recovering any of it.

Approving the $2.5 bn they anticipate getting a return on that investment. If they manage to get higher returns and recover some of the $4.0 bn that will be a bonus, but it probably won't have figured in their investment decision.

As with the Brown's Ferry 1 restart, a lot of wiring and piping will have to be replaced. TVA are also likely to use a 2007 model control system, rather than a 1986 model. I also recollect reading somewhere that some of the parts had been cannibalized for other plants, so these will need to be replaced.
Alex Brown said…
The issue of the sunk costs here being indicitive of future costs is a good one in many circumstances, however it does not accurately take into account the changes in TVA leadership/policy over that last 30 years. Not really worth getting into, but TVA is more or less a private company these days whereas in the past they had to pander to political interests even when it costs them money. Also, concerning Bellefonte, TVA stated in the board meeting that over the next 5 years they would need an additional 7000MW of generation. Extrapolating out their numbers would need 10500+MW additional generation over what they have now by the time Bellefonte could be completed. Assuming 30% of this is baseload that would mean that even with Watts Bar 2 they would still need 2 AP100s at Bellefonte to stay even with the increase in demand. Further by that time TVAs oldest coal units will be at the end of their operational life and would need to be replaced starting before 2020.

I know people here want to see new nuclear units built, but we are still 10 years away from the operation of the first of the "next generation" of reactors. The NRC it estimating it will take 3.5 years to liscence the new rectors, so Watts Bar 2 will be operating before most of these new units are even allowed to start construction.
Anonymous said…
There are other sites that still have construction permits. TVA just cancelled their original permits for Bellfonte a few months ago. Exelon has a permit for Clinton site in Illinois. Here's some handy info published by ScienTech,

Click "Download the CNPP Booklet"

It has lots the info on nuke plant status.

I was just at Watt Bar last year and met several of the old hands from startup days. From I gather, people there didn't seem too interested in actually getting the plant on line, it was more like keep it in construction so their grandchildren would have a place to work. If you get my drift.

Here's another good link to the NRC, you'll find the schedule for new reactor licensing. 19 utilities intend to file applications for 28 new power plants by 2009.
(Then click the PDF files in the box to the right.)

Welcome back atomic energy.

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