Why Is TVA Buying Spare Parts For A Nuclear Reactor It Hasn’t Finished Yet?

A massive crane lowers a new steam generator into TVA's Sequoyah Unit 2 reactor in 2012. Image: Tennessee Valley Authority.

A massive crane lowers a new steam generator into TVA’s Sequoyah Unit 2 reactor in 2012. Image: Tennessee Valley Authority.

The Tennessee Valley Authority is buying replacement parts for a nuclear reactor that’s not even finished yet. Crews having been working on Watts Bar Unit 2 for the last forty years.

TVA says the steam generators at Watts Bar Unit 2 were installed decades ago, as the reactor sat unfinished. The agency’s nuclear power chief, Joe Grimes, says they want to be ready if problems arise once Unit 2 is finally switched on late next year.

“Not only is the replacement of these a very challenging activity, the design and manufacturing takes up to four years,” Grimes told the TVA board last week. The board voted to spend $160 million on replacements. TVA officials insist it would be 8 to 10 years before the generators need to be swapped out, and it’s cheaper to buy them now rather than later. The agency carried out a similar project at its Sequoyah plant two years ago, which cost $360 million.

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