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Recently opened Watts Bar 2 nuclear power plant already shut down for repairs

America’s first ’21st century #nuclear plant’ already has been shut down for repairs, LA Times, Michael Hiltzik Contact Reporter, May 8 2017, When the Tennessee Valley Authority’s Watts Bar 2 nuclear power plant was finally approaching completion the big public utility hailed it as “the nation’s first new nuclear generation of the 21st century.”

That was in October 2015, and the plant was thought to be only a few months away from going online. But it wasn’t until October 2016 that Watts Bar 2 began operating commercially. In March, just over five months later, the plant went offline — and it’s expected to remain offline at least into this summer, the TVA region’s peak period for electrical demand.

The 21st century is shaping up as not a good one for nuclear power, and Watts Bar Unit 2 may show why. The U.S. nuclear industry is running in neutral, except when it runs in reverse. Other than Watts Bar 2, the last new nuclear plant to enter American service is now nearly 20 years old — TVA’s 1996-vintage Watts Bar Unit 1.

California is on the verge of exiting the nuclear power field entirely, with the planned mothballing of Pacific Gas & Electric’s Diablo Canyon power plant. Diablo Canyon’s two reactors are to be shut down in 2024 and 2025 as part of a deal reached last year for the utility’s transition to other renewable sources. That deal followed the 2013 decision of Southern California Edison to permanently close San Onofre, the state’s only other nuclear power plant, following a botched attempt at its refurbishment.

The immediate cause of the Watts Bar shutdown is the failure of components of the unit’s condenser, which cools steam used to drive the generating turbines back into water. TVA took the plant off-line on March 23 and is still trying to pinpoint the cause of the condenser failure.

But the problems at Watts Bar arise from more than just a structural failure of the condenser. They’re also connected to the plant’s long gestation and to maladies endemic to the entire nuclear power industry.

Watts Bar 2 holds the world record for the longest gestation of any nuclear plant in history, having been listed as “under construction” for 43 years. Construction was launched in 1972 and suspended in 1985, when the plant already was 60% complete. By then, despite an initial cost estimate of about $400 million, some $1.7 billion had been spent. Construction resumed in 2007. The total cost is now estimated at $6.1 billion……..

Watts Bar, the so-called 21st century American nuclear plant, defines the crisis facing the U.S. nuclear industry. It’s stuck with outmoded technology and a management culture that exacerbates, rather than constrains, the technology’s safety issues. With every episode like this, the industry moves one step further away from making the case for its survival.


May 10, 2017 - Posted by | business and costs, USA

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