It’s almost common knowledge that power companies need a solid baseline of power production from conventional fuels. So you have to be greatly encouraged to hear another nuclear plant would be online soon, if 2015 qualifies as soon. The 1,100-MW Watts Bar 2 has been in an on-again, off-again status for…35 years! The Tennessee Valley Authority halted construction on Unit 2 in 1988, citing a slump in power sales, and then revived it in 2007.
The TVA says the nuclear project is now on track for completion only three years later than originally planned, and thank goodness, considering all the coal plants shutting down – 18 of them by the TVAs count.
Officials said in October that the nation’s largest public power provider should wrap up construction in Q4 2015 at a cost of $4 billion to $4.5 billion. Now if the article ended here, you’d think, that’s not much for a 1,100 MW facility. But if you do the math, you might think otherwise, so let’s do the math.
First of all, the figures reveal a comparative cost of power at ($4.5 x 109/ 1.1 x 103 MW) = $4.1 x 106, or $4.1 million/MW. Initially, construction was scheduled for completion in 2012 at a cost of about $2.5 billion, but TVA officials concede that projection was way off because of poor planning and management.
The figures acknowledge a cost overrun of $2 billion, or (2/2.5) 80%. We can agree that is indeed the result of poor planning and management, a sort of hallmark for government work. Now just relax. The quarterly report assures that the hurdles have been cleared, and construction efficiency is strong. Right.
Remember, the completion date is supposed to be 2015. In a next “breath”, TVA says it is reviewing the Nuclear Regulatory Commission order that says the commission will not issue final licensing decisions until it determines, “how spent nuclear fuel can be managed after a plant shuts down.” What that means is uncertain other than the first production date is not necessarily early 2016, and hence, the plant probably won’t start despite investments of $4.5 billion and 35-years.
To wrap up with a little contrast, consider that wind farms generally go up in less than 35 years, cost about $2 million/MW, provide lease payments (steady income) to land owners, produce no waste or pollution, make no demands on fresh water, and if TVA dams are nearby, surplus wind power could drive pumps to refill dams. Sounds like an Authority missed a great opportunity.
Filed Under: News