Hot River Prompts TVA to Power Down Reactors as Cooling Tower Nears Completion

Operators brought all three reactors at the Browns Ferry Nuclear Plant down to half power this week as the summer heat pushed water temperatures in the adjacent Tennessee River above 90 degrees.

The Tennessee Valley Authority plant west of Huntsville, Ala., cycles water from the river through its cooling systems, which include several cooling towers. Normally operators can run the plant’s three reactors at full power while keeping discharged water within regulatory limits set to protect fish affected by elevated water temperatures. But TVA spokesman Ray Golden told the Chattanooga Times Free Press Thursday that the plant is not allowed to add any heat to the river once ambient water temperatures top 90 degrees. Consequently, all three reactors at the plant have been brought to half power since Sunday.

TVA operates three 1,100-megawatt GE Type-4 boiling water reactors at the site, according to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. River temperatures are a recurring concern at Browns Ferry, and according to the TVA, the plant operated at 50 percent power for several days last July and through half of last August for the same reasons. In response, the plant began building a seventh cooling tower last October, but this spring’s tornado outbreak delayed the project’s completion scheduled for earlier this summer.

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