Knoxville, Tenn., April 28, 2011 — Severe weather in the area served by the Tennessee Valley Authority caused serious damage to the utility's transmission system Wednesday, with power outages and high voltage lines down in Alabama, Tennessee, Kentucky and Mississippi.
The 3.3 GW Browns Ferry is powered by 3 GE boiling water reactors, which were commissioned from 1973 to 1976. At the time of the plant's completion, it was the largest nuclear power plant in the world and the first to generate more than 1 GW of power.
The plant will return after workers repair enough of the storm damaged transmission lines to allow the high voltage power system to once again move the electricity from the plant to consumers' homes and businesses.
Units 2 and 3 were brought to a state of cold shutdown because the transmission system was too damaged to handle that level of power. Unit 1 will also be shut down, according to TVA, but is taking longer because the unit's circulating water pumps tripped.
Eleven high-voltage transmission lines were out of service Wednesday afternoon and TVA crews are working to restore service. Only one local power company, Cullman Electric Cooperative in Cullman, Ala., was directly affected by the TVA transmission outage. Several other power companies sustained damage.
Additional severe weather, including high winds and possible tornados, was expected later Wednesday. Strong storms could damage transmission lines and structures and cause power outages. TVA's service region includes most of Tennessee; southwestern Kentucky; the northern areas in Mississippi, Alabama, and Georgia and parts of western North Carolina and southwest Virginia.
Rainfall in the western portion of the TVA service area was 4 - 7 inches from Tuesday to Wednesday. Eight of the nine dams on the Tennessee River were generating at full power to move water through the river system and help control flooding.
"The unusually strong storms we're experiencing have caused damage resulting in power outages," said Rob Manning, TVA executive vice president of Power System Operations, who also urged caution around damaged electrical equipment.
TVA maintains 16,000 miles of high voltage power transmission lines that serve 155 local power companies and 56 large industrial customers and government facilities.
The Tennessee Valley Authority, a corporation owned by the U.S. government, provides electricity for utility and business customers in most of Tennessee and parts of Alabama, Mississippi, Kentucky, Georgia, North Carolina and Virginia — an area of 80,000 square miles with a population of 9 million.
TVA operates 29 hydroelectric dams, 11 coal-fired power plants, three nuclear plants and 11 natural gas-fired power facilities that can produce about 34,000 MW of electricity, delivered over 16,000 miles of high-voltage power lines.