The Tennessee Valley Authority was set to begin pouring the concrete foundation in late August for a 12,000-sq-ft reactor containment structure at its Brown's Ferry nuclear powerplant in Alabama that is being designed to withstand a 10,000-year earthquake and 300-mph winds. Specifications for the building, known as FLEX, were developed by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission from lessons learned after the 2011 Fukushima accident in Japan.
"It's an entirely new layer of protection to be used for a beyond-design flood, earthquake or tornado," says a TVA spokesman. Robert Feiel, project engineer for Knoxville-based Mesa Associates, says the structure's design addresses the loss of power that crippled reactor cooling systems at Fukushima. NRC is requiring the upgrades for the new Unit 2 at TVA's Watt's Bar plant, also in Tennessee, to obtain an operating license. It is set to start up commercially by the end of 2015, says TVA.