Bill Williams
Special to

This is Part 4 in a 5-part series on TVA's future in power production, produced by WBIR, our NBC partner in Knoxville.

KNOXVILLE (WRCB) - The Tennessee Valley Authority, after deferring and canceling almost a dozen nuclear reactors in the latter part of the last century, is now turning back to nuclear reactors for power production.

The board is expected in August to approve completion of one of the canceled units at the Bellefonte plant in northern Alabama.

Meanwhile, construction is underway ion the second unit at Watts Bar, in Tennessee.

The cost of those two projects will range near $6 billion. The long-term TVA future could include nuclear reactors that cost a lot less.

They haven't been built yet, but they are on the drawing boards, and the developer, the Babcock and Wilcox energy company, says the reactor is a contender to reshape the nation's resurgent nuclear power industry.

TVA is part of a consortium which is pushing to get the reactor, known as "mPower," approved for commercial use.

The nuclear core and steam generators are contained within a single vessel of the mPower unit. It would operate for 4 1/2 years without refueling.

Babcock and Wilcox says the mPower reactor could be used to re-power aging coal plants, where transmission and distribution infrastructure is already in place.

TVA President Tom Kilgore says he's excited by the mPower concept, but adds, "It's probably the end of this decade before we can see one of those really go into operation."

The small reactors that would produce 125 megawatts of power are expected to cost about $375 million.