No, they did not. And given this has happened several times before, we can’t say we’re surprised but we certainly are disappointed, again. TVA announced during a 2016 first quarter earnings call today that they would exceed the $4.5 billion budget to complete a second nuclear reactor at the Watts Bar site on the Tennessee River, about fifty miles northeast of Chattanooga, by approximately $200 million. Watts Bar 2 represents the longest construction history of any nuclear reactor in the world.
TVA started construction on the two-reactor nuclear plant in the early 1970s at a total estimated cost of $825 million. Unit 2 was mothballed in the mid-1980s for several decades after $1.7 billion was spent. TVA revived the project in 2007 with what amounted to a low-ball estimate by Bechtel of approximately $2.5 billion because in 2012 the estimate was revised upwards by $1.5 to $2 billion to a range of $4 to $4.5 billion. TVA has experienced several delays completing the revived project, only receiving the federal operating license this past October. On today’s call the utility mentioned achieving commercial operation this June and having “full ramp up” in the September-December 2016 timeframe.
As we’ve mentioned before, the nuclear industry is the only one that celebrates bringing a project online 37 years late and many billions of dollars over budget. The Watts Bar Unit 2 project, plagued with management and construction problems since construction resumed in 2007, serves as the poster child for all that was and is still wrong with the nuclear power industry and the utilities that continue to ask ratepayers to support this extremely risky, expensive technology.
Learn more about Watts Bar 2 via our webpage, the article I co-authored on October 8, 2015 for the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists that outlined the long, troubled history and the subsequent LA Times October 12, 2015 column by Michael Hiltzik.