published Wednesday, May 4th, 2011

Temporary line fixes expected this week

  • TVA rebuilding high-voltage lines
    During a news conference Tuesday, Bill McCollum, chief operating officer of Tennessee Valley Authority, said TVA will work through the summer to rebuild high-voltage transmission lines that were damaged during tornadoes throughout the South last week.

It will be the end of summer before TVA expects to have all of its damaged high-voltage transmission power lines repaired, Chief Operating Officer Bill McCollum said Tuesday.

In the meantime, the Tennessee Valley Authority’s power grid “will not be as robust as it has been,” he said.

But for now, about 95 percent of the distributors that receive power from those transmission lines — including EPB — again are receiving electricity, and the rest should be in a matter of days, he said.

Last Wednesday’s record-setting outbreak of tornadoes decimated more than 300 TVA power towers that carry electricity away from the utility’s power plants, downing more than 90 transmission lines.

“The damage done by this storm is unbelievable,” McCollum said. “We have high-voltage transmission structures, normally standing 120 to 150 feet in the air, now rendered into twisted heaps of steel.”

In some cases, the fallen towers stretch one after another over a mile, he said.

“If you had asked people prior to this event, many people might have said it couldn’t occur,” McCollum said. “But indeed it did.”

He said it is too early for TVA to estimate a cost for either the short-term reroutings and fixes on its grid or for making the longer-term repairs. He said TVA does have some insurance but it’s unclear if it will be helpful.

“We have a huge amount of work in front of us,” McCollum said.

At the peak of TVA’s power outage, nearly 850,000 people in six states had no power because TVA couldn’t get its electricity out of its plants.

Five days later, nearly 108,000 still were without power for the same reason. More than 96,000 of those who are still in the dark live in Alabama, according to TVA figures.

Browns Ferry restart

The timetable for restarting the Browns Ferry Nuclear Plant also depends on the federal utility’s progress with repairs, McCollum said.

Three reactors at Browns Ferry shut down automatically when unprecedented storms and tornadoes knocked out hundreds of transmission power towers.

McCollum and TVA spokesman Ray Golden said Browns Ferry will be restarted when TVA deems its rerouted and repaired power system is stabilized.

The nuclear plant remains in “safe shutdown,” they said, and at present the utility does not need Browns Ferry’s power.

Until Monday night, the Browns Ferry reactors and pools holding the spent radioactive fuel rods were cooled using diesel-powered generators.

TVA officials said the utility was able to restore off-site power to the nuclear plant Tuesday night. When that happened, TVA’s nearly weeklong “notification of unusual event” with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission was terminated.

about Pam Sohn...

Pam Sohn has been reporting or editing Chattanooga news for 25 years. A Walden’s Ridge native, she began her journalism career with a 10-year stint at the Anniston (Ala.) Star. She came to the Chattanooga Times Free Press in 1999 after working at the Chattanooga Times for 14 years. She has been a city editor, Sunday editor, wire editor, projects team leader and assistant lifestyle editor. As a reporter, she also has covered the police, ...

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