Flawed TVA Process Leads to Nuclear Cost Overruns

Guest Blog | April 5, 2012 | Press Releases

Knoxville, Tn. — Today, Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) president and CEO, Tom Kilgore, announced they intend to ask the TVA board to approve additional cost overrun funding as well an extended construction schedule to complete a second reactor at their Watts Bar nuclear plant in Spring City, Tennessee. TVA’s current estimates suggest it will require additional funding of $1.5 to $2 billion to complete, putting the total cost estimate in the range of $4 to $4.5 billion. This is in addition to the nearly $2 billion sunk into original construction costs before TVA halted the project in the mid-1980s.

Dr. Stephen A. Smith, executive director of Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, issued this statement:

“TVA’s decision in August, 2007 to restart construction on Watts Bar’s second reactor was flawed from the very beginning. Their decision to award the eventual construction contract to Bechtel, the same firm who provided initial cost-estimates, created a massive conflict of interest, which SACE highlighted at the time.

“TVA’s announcement today confirms how unrealistic Bechtel’s initial cost estimates were, and yet no one is accountable for this $1.5 – $2 billion mistake, which has huge financial implications for ratepayers. Watts Bar’s troubled financial history plainly and painfully shows the inherent financial risks of nuclear power and provides yet another chapter in TVA’s long history of dramatic delays and nuclear cost overruns. Someone needs to be held accountable for this $2 billion mistake; this is simply unacceptable.

“TVA’s board must now reevaluate the decision to rush forward on this troubled project and question whether it is a sound financial decision to approve additional funds to complete construction, especially given we are now in a post-Fukushima world. In light of today’s announcement, we believe that TVA’s dogged pursuit of nuclear power should be questioned given there are less-financially risky energy options available, such as energy efficiency, low-cost natural gas and renewable energy.

“Given how dramatically TVA missed the mark on Watts Bar’s cost estimates, we feel this seriously calls into question the wisdom of TVA’s recent Bellefonte decision, as well. The Board’s August 2011 decision to approve that plant in northeast Alabama was once again based on low-cost estimates, which were incorporated in TVA’s recent Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) process. We maintain this new information requires a fundamental revisiting of IRP process and that TVA should reevaluate the feasibility of these proposed nuclear projects.

You can read our previous comments on Watts Bar’s construction here:

# # # ## Southern Alliance for Clean Energy is a nonprofit organization that promotes responsible energy choices that create global warming solutions and ensure clean, safe, and healthy communities throughout the Southeast. www.cleanenergy.org