TVA: Browns Ferry Nuclear Plant Gets Go Ahead

By May 4, 2007Energy

The restart of the Browns Ferry Unit 1 nuclear plant in Alabama, taken off line in 1985, is getting closer, much closer, as the $1.8 billion renovation nears completion.

Inspectors with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission have determined that the Tennessee Valley Authority has “adequately prepared” the Browns Ferry nuclear plant’s third and final reactor to resume operations after being down for 22 years.

The commission’s finding was given Wednesday in a meeting between federal regulators and TVA.

About 1,300 tasks still must be done before the restart, but TVA spokesman Craig Beasley said those items were not a hurdle.

Decatur Mayor Don Kyle said the restart will be good for the region because it will ensure an ample supply of reasonably priced electricity.

“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.”

If all goes as planned, the long-idled Unit 1 reactor will be producing electricity again by the end of May.

The TVA serves about 8.7 million customers in the southeast, where demand for electricity is expected to grow 2 percent annually in the coming years. Adding the production of Browns Ferry Unit 1 — more than 1,155 megawatts, or enough power to supply 650,000 homes — is a good start toward addressing this increased demand. And while not a new reactor, Unit 1 has been completely rebuilt and its operation represents yet another step forward in America’s nuclear renaissance.

Meanwhile, north of the border, Canadian Prime Minister Steven Harper sees lots of opportunity in the nuclear power industry.

When the Prime Minister launches into his familiar spiel about Canada as an emerging “energy superpower,” we all think we know what he’s talking about – he’s an Alberta MP, after all, and his father worked for Imperial Oil. Yet in a key speech last summer in London, his most gleeful boast was not about record oil profits, but about soaring uranium prices. “There aren’t many hotter commodities, so to speak, in the resource markets these days,” Harper joked to the Canada-U.K. Chamber of Commerce crowd. Then, noting that Britain is among those countries poised to begin buying new reactors for the first time in decades, he added: “We’ll hope you remember that Canada is not just a source of uranium; we also manufacture state-of-the-art CANDU reactor technology, and we’re world leaders in safe management of fuel waste.”

Japan, too, is aggressive in helping other nations develop their nuclear industry, investing in new plants in places like India. Hope the United States doesn’t get left behind.

(Hat tip: NEI Nuclear Notes.)