Browns Ferry: A Look Inside a U.S. Nuclear Power Plant

The Tennessee Valley Authority’s Browns Ferry Nuclear Plant near the Tennessee River in Alabama has three General Electric boiling water reactors that have a maximum total capacity of 3,440 MW that amount to roughly 10 percent of the utility’s total generation. Operational since 1974, Browns Ferry is TVA’s first nuclear power plant.

Unit 1 began commercial operation on Aug. 1, 1974, followed by Unit 2 in 1975 and Unit 3 in 1977. In 1985, though, TVA shut down Browns Ferry along with the rest of its nuclear power fleet.

(1) TVA workers carry out refueling operations on the Unit 2 reactor.

(2) Underneath 27 feet of water lie 12 feet tall stainless steel racks of spent nuclear full at the top of Unit 1.

(3) Matthew Rasmussen, Operations Superintendent, explains the remote shut down panel of Unit 1.

(4) The containment door of the Unit 2 reactor, opened for maintenance, is 7 feet thick of reinforced concrete.

(5) Fire hoses attached to water valves that are an alternative method to get water onto the spent fuel pool and reactor vessel.

In 1991, TVA restarted Unit 2. Four years later in 1995, Unit 3 began generating power yet again. In 2002, the TVA Board approved the restart of Browns Ferry Unit 1 and after a $1.9 billion project, the Unit became the nation’s first nuclear unit to come online in the 21st century when it was restarted in May 2007.

Federal regulators approved the renewal of operating licenses for Browns Ferry Units 1, 2, and 3 in May 2006, which will allow continued operation of the units until 2033, 2034 and 2036.

(6) The refueling floor ofBrowns Ferry.

(7) The concrete hatch closedon the Unit 1 reactor.

(8) Second look of TVA workers carrying out refueling operations on the Unit 2 reactor.

(9) The hard vent pipe, a modification after the 3 Mile Island accident, safely vents explosive hydrogen gas and disperses it in the atmosphere.

In March, TVA opened the doors to the Browns Ferry plant to give invited guests a look inside an operating U.S. nuclear power plant.

All photos courtesy of the Tennessee Valley Authority and photographer Michael Mercier of The Huntsville Times.

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