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The Watts Bar Nuclear Generating Station is a Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) nuclear reactor used for electric power generation and tritium production for nuclear weapons. It is located on a 1,770-acre (7.2 kmĀ²) site in Rhea County, Tennesseemarker near Spring Citymarker, between the cities of Chattanoogamarker and Knoxvillemarker. Watts Bar Unit 1 is the most recent civilian reactor to come on-line in the United States. Watts Bar supplies enough electricity for about 750,000 households in the Tennessee Valley.

This plant has one Westinghouse pressurized water reactor, one of two reactor units whose construction commenced in 1973. Unit 1 was completed in 1996, and has a winter net dependable generating capacity of 1,167 megawatts.

Unit 2 Construction Project

TVA is currently working to finish the partially completed Unit 2. Unit 2 was about 80% complete when its construction was stopped in 1988. The official reason given for halting construction was a decrease in demand for electricity, but the decision was hailed as a victory by anti-nuclear activists. Unit 2 remains partly completed (several of its parts being used on other TVA units), but on August 1, 2007 the TVA Board approved completion of the unit. Construction resumed on October 15, 2007, with the reactor expected to begin operation in 2013. The project is expected to cost $2.5 billion, and employ around 2,300 contractors. Once finished, it is estimated to produce 1,180 megawatts and create around 250 permanent jobs. This is a landmark project in that Unit 2 will be the first new nuclear power plant to come online in the USA in more than a decade. Once completed, Unit 2 is expected to receive a 40 year operating license from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC).

Tritium production

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission operating license for Watts Bar was modified in September 2002 to allow TVA to irradiate tritium-producing burnable absorber rods at Watts Bar to produce tritium for the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE's) National Nuclear Security Administration. The Watts Bar license amendment currently permits TVA to install up to 240 tritium-producing rods in Watts Bar Unit 1. Planned future license amendments would allow TVA to irradiate up to approximately 2,000 tritium-producing rods in the Watts Bar reactor.

TVA began irradiating tritium-producing rods at Watts Bar Unit 1 in the fall of 2003. TVA removed these rods from the reactor in the spring of 2005. DOE successfully shipped them to its tritium-extraction facility at Savannah River Sitemarker in South Carolinamarker. DOE reimburses TVA for the cost of providing the irradiation services, and also pays TVA a fee for each tritium-producing rod that is irradiated.

See also


  1. PRIS Home Page

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