TVA says Watts Bar reactor construction is back on track

TVA says Watts Bar reactor construction is back on track

Posted:
The Unit 2 reactor is estimated to go online in late 2015. The Unit 2 reactor is estimated to go online in late 2015.
Robert Beecken had retired from TVA, but came back this spring as part of the new construction management team. Robert Beecken had retired from TVA, but came back this spring as part of the new construction management team.

By JILL MCNEAL
6 News Anchor/Reporter

SPRING CITY (WATE) - TVA said Friday that construction is back on track for the second reactor at the Watts Bar nuclear plant.

In April, the utility approved a $2 billion budget increase and three-year deadline extension for the Rhea County plant.

Robert Beecken had retired from TVA, but came back this spring as part of the new construction management team put in place when officials discovered the entire project was way off schedule and over budget.

"I'm really excited about getting it done," Beecken said.

He's in charge of testing and certifying each piece of equipment. He was here when Unit 1 was completed 16 years ago.

"She operated superbly when we did put her online and generated a lot of power for the valley, so it was a good feeling, a good thing," Beecken said.

Construction on the Watts Bar nuclear plant began back in 1972. After stops and starts, Unit 1 went online in 1996 and Unit 2's most recent estimate is for the end of 2015. 

"We've taken a lot of lessons learned and a lot of actions to improve our performance," said TVA Senior Vice President Mike Skaggs.

He said problems with construction quality and safety were resolved after a temporary stand-down last fall.

"We had some issues where we weren't meeting our own standards. We took some time off to make sure we refreshed our roles and responsibilities," he said.

Skaggs said the challenges that remain include meeting new regulations after Japan's Fukushima nuclear disaster and solving the nationwide problem of where to permanently store spent fuel.

TVA said having both Watts Bar units up and running means more reliable, cleaner and cost-effective power for local electricity customers.

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