Nearly 43 years after construction began, the Unit 2 reactor at the Watts Bar Nuclear Plant moves closer to operation
TVA Chief Nuclear Officer Joe Grimes said this week that workers at the Unit 2 reactor at the Watts Bar Nuclear Plant expect to begin power production for the first time within the next month or so at the newest unit at Watts Bar. Grimes said he expects the unit to achieve initial criticality — the point at which a self-sustaining nuclear chain reaction occurs within the reactor core — later this month. After a couple of weeks of tests, the unit should begin low power production and should achieve 100 percent production and be declared a commercial generating plant by this summer.
The startup of the Unit 2 reactor at the Watts Bar Nuclear Power Plant will add 1,411 megawatts of carbon-free electricity generation, or enough power to supply two cities the size of Chattanooga. Although the $4.7 billion price tag for TVA’s newest nuclear unit is only half that of other comparably sized new reactors, TVA President Bill Johnson said Tuesday it will still be more expensive than TVA’s existing fleet of power and will tend to push up TVA’s power costs.
The newest Watts Bar reactor will help TVA replace coal-fired generation that they recently have or will soon will shut down at its Widows Creek, Colbert, New Johnsonville and Paradise fossil plants.