The Browns Ferry Nuclear Plant is located on the Tennessee River near Decatur and Athens, Alabama, on the north side (right bank) of Wheeler Lake. The Browns Ferry Nuclear Plant is named after a ferry that operated at the site until the middle of the 20th century. The site has three General Electric boiling water reactor (BWR) nuclear generating units and is owned entirely by the Tennessee Valley Authority. Browns Ferry Nuclear Plant was TVA's first nuclear power plant; its approval occurred on June 17, 1966 and construction began in September 1966. In 1974, the time of its initial operation, it was the largest nuclear plant in the world. It was the first nuclear plant in the world to generate more than 1 gigawatt of power.

In 2006, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) renewed the licenses for all three reactors, extending them for an additional twenty years.

Browns Ferry Nuclear Power Plant Unit One

Unit One is a 1,065 MWe BWR built by General Electric. Construction started on Unit One September 12, 1966 and originally came online on December 20, 1973. It is licensed to operate through December 20, 2033. However, Unit One was shut down for a year after a fire in 1975 damaged the unit. The unit was subsequently repaired and operated from 1976 through 1985, when all three Browns Ferry units were shut down for operational and management issues. Units Two and Three were restarted in 1991 and 1995, respectively.

Starting in 2002, TVA undertook to restore Unit One to operational status, spending $1.8 billion to do so. The United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) approved the restart of Unit 1 on May 15, 2007 and the reactor was brought up to criticality on May 22 for the first time since March 3, 1985. During initial testing after restart, on May 24, 2007, a leaky hydraulic control pipe in the turbine hall burst, spilling about 600 gallons of non-radioactive fluid, and the newly restarted reactor was temporarily powered down. Reactor power-up and tests resumed on May 27 and the unit started supplying power to the electricity supply grid on June 2, 2007, reaching full power on June 8. The Browns Ferry restart is expected to pay for itself in five years.

Unit One can generate 1,155 MW of electricity, and TVA plans an uprate to 1,280 MWe for this and the other two reactors.

Unit One fire

The March 22, 1975 fire started when a worker using a candle to search for air leaks accidentally set a temporary cable seal on fire. The fire spread through the wall from the temporary seal. The presence of the fire on the other side of the wall was not recognized until significant damage had been done to the station's control cabling.

From NRC IE BULLETIN NO. - 75-04A:

This later resulted in the Nuclear Regulatory Commission making significant additions to the standards for fire protection through the publication of 10CFR50.48 and Appendix R. According to the Nuclear Information and Resource Service, the newly-restarted Unit One does not comply with these standards. Unit Three was not affected by the accident. This event was pivotal not just for firestopping in the nuclear field, but also in commercial and industrial construction. While the nuclear field went to installations of silicone foam, a wider array of firestops became prevalent in non-nuclear construction.

In a 2005 analysis of significant nuclear safety occurrences in the US, the NRC concluded that the fire at Browns Ferry was the most likely (excluding the actual accident at TMI) "precursor" incident to have led to a nuclear accident in the event of a subsequent failure.

Browns Ferry Nuclear Power Plant Unit Two

Unit Two is a 1,113 MWe BWR built by General Electric which originally came online on August 2, 1974, and is licensed to operate through June 28, 2034. Unit Two generated 8.911261 TW·h of electricity in 2003, achieving a capacity factor of 94.1%.

During a drought in August 2007, Unit Two was shut down for one day because water temperature in the Tennessee River rose too high for the water to be used for cooling and then discharged back into the river.

Beginning in 2005 Unit 2 was loaded with BLEU (Blended Low Enriched Uranium) recovered by the DOE from weapons programs. This fuel contains quantities of U-236 and other contaminants because it was made from reprocessed fuel from weapons program reactors and therefore has slightly different characteristics when used in a reactor as compared to fresh uranium fuel. By making use of this fuel which would otherwise have been disposed of as waste the TVA is saving millions of dollars in fuel costs and accumulating a database of recycled uranium reactions in LWR use.

Browns Ferry Nuclear Power Plant Unit Three

Unit Three is a 1,113 MWe BWR built by General Electric which originally came online on August 18, 1976, and is licensed to operate through July 2, 2036. Unit Three generated 9.260078 TW·h, achieving a capacity factor of 99%.

Browns Ferry Nuclear Plant
Country United States
Locale Athens, Alabama
Coordinates 34°42′14″N 87°7′7″W / 34.70389°N 87.11861°W / 34.70389; -87.11861Coordinates / 34.70389; -87.11861
Status Operational
Construction began 1966–77
Commission date Unit 1: Dec. 20, 1973
Unit 2: Aug. 2, 1974
Unit 3: Aug. 18, 1976
Licence expiration Unit 1: Dec. 20, 2033
Unit 2: June 6, 2034
Unit 3: July 2, 2036
Operator(s) Tennessee Valley Authority
Architect(s) TVA

Reactor information
Reactors operational 3,297 MW
(3 reactors)
Reactor type(s) boiling water reactor
Reactor supplier(s) General Electric

Power generation information
Annual generation 21,227 GW·h