The US Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) has approved a staff recommendation to restart Browns Ferry 1 and to apply for licence extensions at all three units at the plant.

Browns Ferry 1 has not operated since June 1985, and the estimated five-year restart project will entail increasing the unit’s generating capacity to 1280MWe from 1050MWe, at a cost of $1.7-1.8 billion.

TVA, the largest state-run US utility, has been authorised to begin the recovery of unit 1 and to ask the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) for a 20-year extension of the operating licences for all three units at the plant. The three were shut down in the mid- 1980s to improve management and operational performance. Unit 1 had suffered a significant fire in 1975. Unit 2 returned to service in May 1991, followed by unit 3 in November 1995.

TVA chairman Glenn McCullough Jr said: “Returning Browns Ferry 1 to service is the best business decision for TVA and its customers in terms of power supply, cost, generation mix, delivered cost of power and the environment. This decision advances our National Energy Policy, which calls for the safe expansion of nuclear energy, and it meets our objective of providing affordable, reliable power to the people of the Tennessee Valley.” The environmental review found no significant adverse impacts, and recent financial analyses showed that returning Browns Ferry 1 to operation will reduce TVA’s delivered cost of power.

The senior vice president of the Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI), Marvin Fertel, said that the NEI supported TVA’s decision as: “an important step to meet the region’s growing demand for energy with the nation’s largest source of electricity that does not pollute the air.” He also said: “In the years since Browns Ferry 1 ceased operations, the nuclear energy industry has achieved steady, consistent gains in safety and reliability. As a whole, over 100 commercial reactors are performing at record high levels of safety and reliability.

“To further strengthen US energy security and economic progress, nuclear power plant owners are taking several steps to help meet the US rising demand for electricity and cleaner air. These steps include renewal of plant operating licences for an additional 20 years and preliminary work, in the form of preparing early site permit applications to the NRC, that could lead to new nuclear power plant orders within the next three to five years.”