The Tennessee Valley Authority is downplaying yet another budget overrun for the completion of a once-mothballed nuclear reactor south of Crossville. Watts Bar Unit 2, which is slated to be the first reactor to come online in the U.S. in two decades, will take an additional $200 million to finish than anticipated.
TVA’s board met privately to approve the additional spending in January. But at its quarterly public meeting Thursday, CEO Bill Johnson attempted to justify the latest overage.
He blamed unforeseen costs, like new safety requirements following the nuclear disaster in Fukushima, though
that justification was also used for a budget increase in 2012.
“When we get done, and you take into account these added things, I think we’ll be within half a percent of the original estimate to complete, which is pretty good performance on a project of that size,” Johnson told the TVA board.
It’s unclear what number he’s referring to as an “original estimate.” The most recent forecast from 2012 was $4.5 billion, so the new budget of $4.7 billion is 4.4 percent higher.
That forecast in 2012 was already nearly twice the previous estimate, when work was restarted in 2007. And it still doesn’t take into account what was spent going back to the 1970s. The Chattanooga Times Free Press
calculates the total costs for the two reactors at $12 billion — more than three times the price tag of any other TVA plant.
Watts Bar Unit 2 isn’t done yet, and the latest timeline says it will be completed this summer. But Johnson said the utility will not speed things along just to meet a deadline. “We’re getting close,” he said.
Once Watts Bar Unit 2 comes online, it will power roughly 650,000 homes.