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With the nuclear crisis in Japan developing over the spent fuel pools, the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) wants to make sure they remain “ready for the unexpected.”

With that in mind, the TVA is adding satellite telephones and small portable generators at its three operating nuclear plants, and will within months strengthen power and water supplies to spent fuel pools and speed up the transfer of nuclear waste from pools to dry cask storage.

Reviews after the Japanese nuclear crisis confirm TVA’s six reactors and five spent fuel pools are safe, TVA Chief Operating Officer Bill McCollum told board members at a meeting in Chattanooga.

They already had been “retrofitted with safety measures to assure defense-in-depth,” he said. “But we are working to assure that we’re ready for the unexpected.”

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In addition, the board hired consultants to help assess the utility’s nuclear program, said TVA board Chairman Dennis Bottorff.

While TVA reassesses its existing plants, the board delayed a decision on whether to complete a reactor at the 30-year-old Bellefonte Nuclear Plant in Hollywood, Ala.

“We continue to view nuclear power as a viable option for the future,” Bottoroff said. “But we also think it’s a good time to take a pause.”

As a response to the earthquake and tsunami that struck Japan and caused the nuclear disaster, TVA created a centralized response center to monitor conditions at the Fukushima Dai-ichi plant and coordinate with the Institute of Nuclear Power Operations and the World Association of Nuclear Operators.

Since then, TVA has reviewed local plant requirements and response plans to a slate of disasters, single or multiple.

One scenario included damage from a tornado or earthquake combined with flooding from a dam failure, with emergencies involving one or more reactor.

That look prompted a 90-day plan to add satellite phones and portable generators. It also has prompted a recommendation for the following changes within 12 months:
• Move additional nuclear fuel from spent-fuel pools into dry cask storage
• Harden cooling-water supply pipes to spent-fuel pools
• Add a fifth generator for backup power at Sequoyah and Watts Bar nuclear plants.
• Harden electrical switchyards to better withstand seismic impacts.

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