The Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) on Monday said it would delay construction at Watts Bar Unit 2 and delay commercial operation of the facility from the previously anticipated late 2012 timeframe into 2013, owing to a licensing delay, safety and environmental issues, and a transition in the leadership of its nuclear generation development and construction (NGDC) group.

The construction progress, combined with a licensing delay related to a Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) Atomic Safety and Licensing Board hearing on an aquatic issue and integrating safety modifications prompted by the Fukushima accident in Japan, will impact the schedule, Chief Operating Officer Bill McCollum said.

McCollum said the pace of construction at Watts Bar 2 means TVA “will not meet the aggressive 60-month timetable for the project. We are reviewing the overall construction and licensing schedule and will take a deliberate approach that will extend commercial operation of the facility from late 2012 into 2013.”

Ashok Bhatnagar, senior vice president for NGDC since 2007, has announced his plan to retire, effective Oct. 1. With the pending retirement, McCollum named Mike Skaggs, currently site vice president at Sequoyah Nuclear Plant, to be the next senior vice president for NGDC.

TVA began building Watts Bar 2 in 1972, but completion was deferred in 1988, when utilities nationwide lowered their power growth forecasts. Work to complete the 1,180 MW generating unit resumed in 2007I; the unit is currently about 86% complete. In recent years, studies have shown that completion of TVA’s unfinished nuclear units will produce lower-priced power than other options.

As planned, TVA received a NRC license for fuel at Watts Bar for use in Unit 2, and the new fuel began arriving this summer, McCollum said.

TVA is working closely with contractors performing much of the construction work at Watts Bar and will develop a detailed timetable for completion and assess the impact on costs, McCollum added. When the NRC issues a final report on Fukushima-related changes, a more accurate assessment of costs will be made. TVA expects, however, that the overall impact on the cost of electricity from Watts Bar 2 will be small.

Sources: POWERnews, TVA