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TVA tour of Watts Bar nuclear construction reveals progress

7:00 PM, Oct 26, 2012   |    comments
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TVA says its quarterly review has instilled confidence in the accuracy of estimates for how much time and money will be required to finish the long-delayed second reactor at the Watts Bar Nuclear Plant.

An accurate "Estimate to Complete" (ETC) is of the utmost importance for TVA after the original plans for the Unit-2 reactor proved off target by several years and several billion dollars.  The Watts Bar 2 reactor was originally slated to be complete this year at a cost of $2 billion.  It is now scheduled to be complete by December 2015 at an expense of up to $4.5 billion.

"We're tracking to the schedule that says our most likely completion date of December 2015 is good," said Mike Skaggs, vice president of construction for TVA.  "The projections are still within our stated budget, right now at around $4.2 billion."

Six months ago TVA announced the new budget and new schedule to finish Watts Bar's second nuclear reactor.  During a tour of the construction site Friday, employees said the project has come a long way since a year ago when out-of-whack budgets and delays forced TVA to stop all construction on Watts Bar 2.

"We took time to understand why we weren't clear on those roles and responsibilities and we've had excellent performance since that time," said Skaggs.

"We've been working really hard to get the project complete and we're moving forward. You see guys working on the reactor head and getting it ready for initial assembly, so we have made significant progress along the way," said Robert Beecken, TVA Startup and Completions Manager.

Quarterly updates distributed to the media by TVA referred to the Watts Bar 2 construction project as "taking care of unfinished business." In order to finish the business of getting Watts Bar 2 online, Skaggs said TVA must face obstacles beyond mere construction.

"Our job is not done.  We still have challenges in front of us," said Skaggs.  "We've been used to operating one plant so we've got to integrate the second plant."

Skaggs said other challenges include incorporating lessons learned from the Fukushima disaster in Japan.  The Nuclear Regulatory Commission is also in the process of developing new standards for the storage of used nuclear fuel on-site at plants.

"We've got to continue to monitor and understand where our performance is so we stay on track," said Skaggs.

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