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TVA's Power Production Future: Billions to finish reactors

Finishing both Watts Bar, Unit Two and Bellefonte, Unit One will cost from $5-6 billion. Finishing both Watts Bar, Unit Two and Bellefonte, Unit One will cost from $5-6 billion.

Bill Williams
Special to WRCBtv.com

This is Part 2 in a 5-part series on TVA's future in power production, produced by WBIR, our NBC partner in Knoxville.

SPRING CITY, TN (WRCB) - The TVA board will decide in August whether to finish the Unit One Nuclear reactor at Bellefonte Nuclear plant in Northern Alabama. 

When work was shut down on the plant in 1988, Unit One was 88% completed. Now, 22 years later, it's estimated that the unit is 55% complete. There's a lot of work to be done, and yet a lot of basic structure is in place.

The switchyard, the containment building, the huge turbine building, and the cooling towers are all there are ready to be used. 

Ashok Bhatnager, TVA's Senior Vice President of Nuclear Generation and Construction, says it makes sense to complete the Bellefonte project, because not only is the site technically suited for nuclear generation, but it also has a significant amount of public support, locally.

TVA is well underway on finishing Unit Two at the Watts Bar Nuclear Plant near Spring City, Tennessee. Construction on that unit was halted in 1985. 

Now it will cost about $2 1/2 billion dollars to finish it. TVA's Chief Nuclear Officer, Preston Swafford, says once the unit is completed, there will be a large number of people employed there for a long time "providing clean energy." He says its a "very environmentally friendly technology."

Unit Two is almost exact copy of Unit One, which is producing enough electricity to light 650,000 homes. When Unit Two is completed in 2013, it will double the output of the Watts Bar plant.

WBIR cameras were allowed inside the plant where very few people other than highly trained technicians and engineers ever go. Our cameras were in the control room, which can be compared to the cockpit of an airliner. They were inside the containment building, and got pictures of the several parts of the nuclear reactor itself.

Finishing both Watts Bar, Unit Two and Bellefonte, Unit One will cost from $5-6 billion. 

TVA President Tom Kilgore says it's worth it. He points to the refurbishment of the Brown's Ferry Nuclear Plant, which cost $1.8 billion dollars, and was paid for in two years.

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