Photo courtesy of TVA
Watts Bar plant unit 2, idle since 1988, is set for 2013 completion.

In what it says is an effort to improve efficiency and eliminate confusing lines of authority and duplication of effort, the Tennessee Valley Authority has relieved Bechtel Corp., based in San Francisco, of construction-management duties at the $2.5-billion restart of unit 2 at TVA's Watts Bar nuclear powerplant.

The federal power producer renegotiated its engineering, procurement and construction contract with Bechtel Power after the project's schedule slipped during the summer, says Terry Johnson, a TVA spokesman. “Fundamentally, we established a level of productivity, and it isn't being met,” he says.

Bechtel retains the contract's technical portion, Johnson says.

“Changes were made to the agreement to better align responsibilities. Bechtel is still committed to successfully delivering Watts Bar [unit] 2,” says Michelle Michael, a Bechtel spokeswoman.

TVA also is cutting the workforce at the East Tennessee site by 800 while it reviews the project's cost and schedule, leaving about 2,500 workers there. About 600 craft workers and 200 support staff, primarily Bechtel and Day & Zimmerman employees, will be laid off. Having fewer workers on the project will help TVA and its contractors better manage the work to complete the construction, start-up testing and the transition to commercial operations while controlling costs, TVA says.

Some of the workers could be called back once the review is completed, Johnson says.

The 1,180-MW Watts Bar unit 2 was about 80% completed when construction stopped in 1988 because growth in demand was slowing. TVA's board of directors authorized the completion of the plant in August 2007. It was put on an aggressive five-year schedule, which has now slipped to 2013.

TVA is evaluating the optimum staffing size to complete the project in an acceptable timeframe at the lowest possible cost. Until that evaluation is complete, a definitive completion date cannot be established, TVA says. In the interim, the agency plans to increase its focus on cost management.