The Tennessee Valley Authority's Watts Bar Nuclear Plant Unit 1 reactor began a scheduled refueling outage on Monday after generating low-cost, carbon-free electricity for more than 500 days.
During the outage, 88 fuel assemblies will be replaced and maintenance will be performed that cannot be done while the generating unit is online. Construction on Watts Bar Unit 2 is continuing during the Unit 1 refueling.
“The focus of every refueling outage is to perform thousands of tasks in a scheduled timeframe safely and efficiently,” said Chris Church, Watts Bar site vice president. “However, this outage takes on special significance because it will be our final opportunity to complete projects that support the beginning of pre-operational testing for Watts Bar Unit 2 in the coming months.
“Our goal is to perform high-quality maintenance to ensure that post outage, Unit 1 will continue to supply reliable, low-cost, carbon-free electricity to the Tennessee Valley while we complete essential Unit 2 tasks that will boost TVA’s nuclear power output by 14 percent when Unit 2 comes online,” he said.
More than 800 contractor workers will supplement Watts Bar employees during the refueling outage, a project requiring more than 95,000 work-hours. Including the Unit 2 construction workforce, Watts Bar will have nearly 5,000 workers onsite during the refueling project.
“Our refueling outage brings a larger number of nuclear professionals to the site, helping to boost the regional economy,” Church added. “We plan, train and prepare each worker to maintain nuclear safety at all times.”
At full capacity, Watts Bar Unit 1 produces 1,100 megawatts of electricity, enough to power approximately 650,000 average Tennessee Valley homes. This will be the 12th refueling outage for the unit, which came online in 1996.
Construction on Watts Bar’s second nuclear unit continues to meet completion targets for safety, quality, cost and schedule. Watts Bar Unit 2 remains on track for a most likely completion date of December 2015, within the estimated completion range of between September 2015 and June 2016. Work at Unit 2 has shifted from large-scale "bulk" construction to completing and testing individual plant systems.
TVA also operates three generating units at the Browns Ferry Nuclear Plant in Athens, Al., and two units at the Sequoyah Nuclear Plant near Soddy Daisy.