TVA officials say they are on pace to start operating the new Watts Bar reactor — the second at the power plant — in December 2015. That could make Watts Bar the nation’s first new civilian nuclear power unit to come online in the 21st century. NRC might cause slippage into early 2016. The new Watts Bar reactor could cost as much as $4.5 billion.
About 30 percent of TVA’s power supply comes from its three nuclear plants: Browns Ferry, near Athens, Ala.; Sequoyah, in Soddy-Daisy, Tenn., and Watts Bar, near Spring City, Tenn. Those plants alone make enough electricity to power more than three million homes in the Tennessee Valley.
TVA expects to spend between $4 billion and $4.5 billion on the second Watts Bar reactor — nearly double earlier estimates. A TVA inspector general report in 2012 concluded that the project was first set for completion that year at a cost of about $2.5 billion.
For comparison, TVA this month announced plans to shutter its Allen coal-fired power plant near Memphis and instead build a natural gas facility. That gas plant is expected to cost $975 million and produce 1,000 megawatts of electricity, enough to power 580,000 homes.
TVA officials say both projects are smart investments.
TVA is interested in the development of small modular reactors (SMRs) as part of TVA’s continuing effort to advance carbon-free, baseload power generation alternatives.
However, the Babcock and Wilcox mPower SMR has been cutback.
B&W CEO Jim Ferland acknowledged in February, 2014 that B and W was likely to cut spending on the venture. The company had announced in November, 2013 that it would seek a major investor to take a majority stake in Generation mPower. When those efforts fell through, Ferland said the company would reduce its spending to as little as $60 million this year, down from $80 million in 2013. And he warned more significant cuts were possible in the future. In April, 2014, layoffs are likely at The Babcock and Wilcox Co.’s Generation mPower as the company proposes to cut spending for the joint venture to develop a small modular reactor to $15 million per year — less than 20% of what it spent in 2013.
DOE had provided about $101 million in funding for development of the reactor. Genartion mPower has spent about $400 million on reactor, with almost all of that coming from B and W.
New nuclear construction is likely to remain dominated by China, Russia, India and South Korea. These countries and emerging countries like some in the Middle east and Asia will be the primary builders of nuclear power. Canada could also be a major player with the Integrated molten salt reactor from Terrestrial Energy.
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Brian Wang is a Futurist Thought Leader and a popular Science blogger with 1 million readers per month. His blog Nextbigfuture.com is ranked #1 Science News Blog. It covers many disruptive technology and trends including Space, Robotics, Artificial Intelligence, Medicine, Anti-aging Biotechnology, and Nanotechnology.
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