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TVA to complete 2nd Watts Bar reactor

By Duncan Mansfield
Associated Press Writer

KNOXVILLE — The Tennessee Valley Authority’s board of directors pushed aside pleas by environmentalists for further study and voted unanimously Wednesday to complete a second nuclear reactor at the Watts Bar Nuclear Plant on the Tennessee River.

The plant, about 50 miles south of Knoxville at Spring City, was the last new nuclear plant to come on line in the United States when it fired up one of its two planned reactors in 1996.

Unit 2, idled in mid-construction in 1985 when TVA shut down its entire nuclear program over safety concerns, could become this country’s first new commercial nuclear reactor of the 21st century.

The plan approved by TVA’s eight-member board will finish Unit 2 in five years at a cost of $2.5 billion, funded by the public utility’s revenues and adding debt.

The reactor will have a capacity of 1,180 megawatts, capable of lighting 650,000 homes, identical to Unit 1. The project would add 250 workers to the Watts Bar station and require about 2,300 construction workers.

Directors approved the plan based on a $20 million internal feasibility study that determined the reactor is about 60 percent complete. Some questioned TVA using consultants, such as Bechtel Power Co., that will want to bid on the work. But TVA officials said bids will be judged competitively by an independent team.

TVA is the nation’s largest public utility, providing wholesale electricity through 158 distributors to about 8.7 million consumers and directly to several dozen large manufacturers in Tennessee, Kentucky, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, North Carolina and Virginia.

Watts Bar Unit 2 would be TVA’s seventh nuclear reactor. The agency recently restarted a Browns Ferry Nuclear Plant reactor in Alabama, also mothballed since 1985, following a $1.8 billion, five-year renovation.

“Completing Watts Bar Unit 2 puts an existing asset to work for TVA customers and provides a clean, safe and reliable source of affordable power to the people of the Tennessee Valley,” TVA Chairman Bill Sansom said.

“Stop trying to say that this is clean,” countered activist John Johnson of Katuah Earth First! during a four-hour meeting at TVA headquarters. “If you think it is clean then I dare you to store fuel rods in your basement.”

TVA officials didn’t discuss the nuclear waste issue. Instead, they pointed to Watts Bar Unit 2’s potential to reduce TVA’s carbon dioxide emissions by up to 8 million tons a year.

Sansom added that the new reactor could put TVA in position to eliminate some dirty coal-fired power plants — TVA has 11 fossil plants on which it is spending some $6 billion to reduce toxic emissions — if demand for electricity fails to meet projections.

Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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