Source: The Times Free Press | Dave Flessner | January 30, 2020

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Staff photo by Tim Barber / The sun sets on TVA’s Sequoyah Nuclear Plant, which operates two of TVA’s seven reactors.

Despite nuclear cutbacks by other utilities, TVA president sees long-term reliance on nuclear generation

Despite the loss of thousands of TVA jobs in Chattanooga over the past four decades, Chattanooga remains the heartbeat of TVA’s single-biggest source of power and will remain one of Chattanooga’s biggest employers, the head of federal utility said Thursday.

In a speech to the Chattanooga Rotary Club, TVA President Jeff Lyash called Chattanooga “the nuclear heartbeat” for TVA, which is looking at ways to both develop the next generation of smaller reactors and extend the life of its existing atomic plants.

TVA, the nation’s biggest public utility, derives more than 40% of its electricity from its seven nuclear reactors — more than twice the U.S. average and twice the share of any other of TVA’s generation sources.

Lyash said TVA is currently studying the potential of building small modular reactors in Oak Ridge near where America’s “Atoms for Peace” program after World War II first developed nuclear energy. TVA also is considering whether to seek another 20-year life extension to the Browns Ferry, Sequoyah and Watts Bar nuclear plants in Tennessee and Alabama.

Lyash, a nuclear engineer and trained senior reactor operator who previously worked at the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, wants TVA to improve its nuclear plant performance and potentially expand nuclear output even as other U.S. utilities are shutting down aging nuclear plants.

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