Investigators Study Cause Of Fire At TVA Watts Bar Plant

Friday, September 27, 2002
Fire at Watts Bar plant
Fire at Watts Bar plant

Investigators are still trying to determine what caused a fire that broke out Friday morning at Watts Bar Hydro Plant.

The fire started about 8:30 a.m. and was contained and then extinguished at about 2 p.m., TVA officials said.

All five employees who were taken to Rhea County Medical Center (three by emergency-medical personnel, two by other employees) for treatment of smoke inhalation have been released and cleared for work on Monday.

The Watts Bar Dam is still operable and available for flood-control operations, although the hydro plant will not be available for power generation until repairs are made, officials said.

A diesel generator is available to operate the dam's flood gates, and to operate the lock.

The fire began in the powerhouse at the hydro plant. The Rhea County Fire Department and other local agencies, assisted by the Watts Bar Nuclear Fire Operations, responded to the fire.

Power lines supporting Watts Bar Nuclear Plant run through the hydro switchyard. One power line was apparently lost as a result of the fire, and the other was de-energized to support firefighting efforts.

Due to loss of these offsite power lines, a Notification of Unusual Event was declared at 8:50 a.m. at the nuclear plant. This is the least serious of four emergency-classification levels.

Watts Bar Nuclear Plant continues to operate at 100-percent power, and all plant-safety systems are functioning as designed.

Watts Bar Hydro is located just upstream from Watts Bar Nuclear Plant, which is on the Tennessee River about halfway between Knoxville and Chattanooga.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission recently announced that it had granted TVA’s application for a license amendment to produce tritium at Watts Bar Nuclear Plant for use by the U.S. Department of Defense.

The license amendment permits TVA to install up to 2,304 rods into the Watts Bar reactor and irradiate them for one fuel cycle, which lasts about 18 months. TVA will then remove the irradiated rods for shipment to DOE’s tritium-extraction facility at the Savannah River Site near Aiken, S.C.

TVA expects to begin tritium production at Watts Bar in the fall of 2003. It has also submitted an application to produce tritium at Sequoyah Nuclear Plant; the NRC has not yet ruled on that application.

For information about Watts Bar: http://www2.una.edu/geography/tn_web/Dams/Watts_Bar.html.


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