Nuclear fuel news at TVA

The utility announced it will load fuel at Watts Bar II in March 2015, and it awarded a $250 million contract to Areva to provide nine fuel loads at Browns Ferry

areva fuel elementsTVA has set March 2015 as the date it will load fuel at Watts Bar 2. This is a major milestone in the development of the 1150 MW reactor.  The utility said in a press statement the reactor is expected to enter revenue service with a target date of December 2015.

Watts Bar Unit 2 will be the first nuclear plant in the U.S. to meet new Nuclear Regulatory Commission regulations established after the 2011 earthquake and tsunami that struck Fukushima Nuclear Plant in Japan.

The estimated cost of completing Watts Bar 2 is expected to be about $4.2 billion which follows the restart of construction after it was halted in the 1980s.

Once fuel is loaded at Watts Bar II, TVA will turn its attention to one of the two partially completed Bellefonte plants. TVA’s board told the utility that no construction work could proceed there until fuel was loaded at Watts Bar II. With the anticipated achievement of that milestone, a unit at Bellefonte, if completed in the early 2020s, could become the third reactor to be brought online by the utility since 2007.

Areva fuel for Browns Ferry

Areva, a French state-owned nuclear conglomerate, will supply nuclear fuel and related services to TVA’s Browns Ferry plant. The firm has held a similar contract for the past decade. The new contract will supply fuel fabricated at Areva’s Richland, WA, plant. Browns Ferry generates 3.3 Gwe from three GE BWR type reactors.

The contract is not likely to improve prospects for start of construction of Areva’s planned uranium enrichment plant near Idaho Falls, ID. The firm told the Salt Lake City Tribune in August, “Absent an investor, and in consideration of current enrichment market conditions, Areva is not projecting a timeline for restarting design and construction planning activities.”

Areva was awarded a $2 billion load guarantee for the project by the U.S. Department of Energy, but has not signed a term sheet for it.

USEC, another uranium enrichment firm, has been trying to convince the government, without success, to also award it a $2 billion loan guarantee.

The firm announced September 5th that a federal court has approved a plan for it to emerge from bankruptcy. According to the Bloomberg wire service, the price of uranium has been rising in recent months which has improved the outlook for the firm.

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