SPRING CITY, Tenn. - The Tennessee Valley Authority has completed loading the 193 new fuel assemblies into its Watts Bar Unit 2 reactor, marking the first initial core load of a commercial nuclear reactor in the United States in nearly two decades.
“With this critical step, Watts Bar continues to be the nation’s leader in achieving milestones for the first new nuclear generation of the 21st Century,” said TVA Chief Nuclear Officer Joe Grimes. “Unit 2 now becomes a fully operational nuclear reactor as the station further transitions to dual-unit operations.”
The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission issued the operating license for Watts Bar Unit 2 on Oct. 22, 2015. Receipt of the full-power license cleared the way for fuel load, once TVA completed all remaining pre-operational tests.
“It’s been a complete team effort getting the station ready for a safe, quality Unit 2 fuel load,” said Watts Bar Site Vice President Kevin Walsh. “From finishing construction tasks to completing all start-up testing, achieving conditions to safely load fuel required a substantial effort that the team delivered with professionalism and a focus on safety.”
With fuel loaded and the reactor reassembled, the Watts Bar team can begin testing the unit's performance as its power output is gradually increased to full capacity. Power ascension testing is an extension of the pre-operational tests and is the final phase designed to ensure that Unit 2 is capable of delivering electricity safely, reliably and efficiently to TVA’s power system.
During testing, nuclear systems and components will be carefully operated in stages of increasing reactor power and the unit will be connected to the TVA power grid and shut down several times to test automatic control responses and to demonstrate the unit can be properly maintained and cooled. This gradual increase in power and these well-controlled, required tests and observations are designed to verify the primary and secondary systems work as designed to safely operate the unit.
The Tennessee Valley Authority is a corporate agency of the United States that provides electricity for business customers and local power distributors serving more than 9 million people in parts of seven southeastern states. TVA receives no taxpayer funding, deriving virtually all of its revenues from sales of electricity. In addition to operating and investing its revenues in its electric system, TVA provides flood control, navigation and land management for the Tennessee River system and assists local power companies and state and local governments with economic development and job creation.