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THURSDAY, MAY 3, 2007
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Unit 1 restart
this month

Browns Ferry Nuclear Plant
making final preparations

By Ronnie Thomas
rthomas@decaturdaily.com 340-2438

ATHENS — About 1,300 activities need to be done before the Tennessee Valley Authority can tell the Nuclear Regulatory Commission that it's ready to restart Unit 1 at Browns Ferry Nuclear Plant.

That seems like an overwhelming task. But TVA spokesman Craig Beasley said workers will chip off a large number of those items during the time it takes to read this story.

"It's really a small number when considering we've already spent more than 15 million work hours over five years completing activities," he said. "It's a tiny portion of what has already been done to refurbish and recover Unit 1. It means the job is essentially complete."

The bottom line, said Beasley, is that TVA expects to bring the reactor back on line this month.

"The exact date we start up is not as important as starting up safely," he said. "That's our commitment to our customers, regulators and members. It's how, not when."

Beasley's comments came at the facility near Athens on Wednesday after the NRC staff gave two reports during separate meetings.

In the morning, TVA officials heard the results of an Operational Readiness Assessment Team inspection the team just completed.

In the afternoon, NRC officials discussed conclusions of a Unit 1 Restart Oversight Panel that will make recommendations to William Travers, the agency's regional administrator in Atlanta.

Ryan Lantz, who served on the Operational Readiness Assessment Team, said that to ensure an independent inspection, four of the seven team members had no prior association with Browns Ferry.

"The other three had limited exposure to the plant," he said. "The team came from all four of NRC's regions, including Dallas, Atlanta, Philadelphia and Chicago."

The team's Malcolm Widmann said inspection focus areas included management oversight, control of safety-significant activities, operations training and experience, corrective action program implementation, and maintenance support activities.

"They were evaluated as adequate to provide assurance to the NRC that TVA had adequately prepared Browns Ferry for a return to three unit operation," he said.

Joe Shea, a member of the oversight panel, said the inspection totaled about 30,000 staff hours.

While he noted that TVA's implementation actions are nearly complete, he said "11 specific items from the regulatory framework remain. We're awaiting TVA's notification they have been completed."

As an example, Shea mentioned an electrical component or relay "that was having known problems throughout the industry."

Beasley said, "When we complete those 1,300 activities, we will have completed all the things required to close out those 11 framework items. If we do everything we need to do to restart Unit 1, Browns Ferry will have completed the regulatory framework and then some."

He said the startup is not a new process, noting all the work done to restart Unit 2 in May 1991 and Unit 3 in November 1995.

Unit 1 has been idle since March 1985, when TVA voluntarily shut down the reactor because of managerial and technical problems. The cost to restart is $1.8 billion.

Decatur Mayor Don Kyle said the restart will be good for the area because it ensures a continuing ample supply of reasonably priced electric power.

"It's particularly a plus in light of how oil-based and gas-based fuel that makes electricity have gone up and down in the Tennessee Valley over the last several years," he said. "TVA will be a predictable price source for power."

Kyle said nuclear power makes the area a more attractive location to sell to other prospective residents and industries. He said people wishing to locate plants or office space "are not just interested in where the area is for transportation purposes, but over the years, as their interests grow, they want to know they'll have enough energy and other basic requirements they need to run their business."

He said TVA gives the Valley a leg up on places that count on coal and fossil fuels for electricity.

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