Officials want more data before renewing water discharge permit for TVA reactor

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) -- A state permit has expired that regulates millions of gallons of warm water released daily after cooling the Tennessee Valley Authority's Watts Bar nuclear plant, and Tennessee environmental officials are asking for newer data before renewing the permit.

The five-year permit for releasing cooling water into the Tennessee River expired in November 2006, and the nation's largest public utility has been operating under a temporary extension since then, in part because of delays by regulators themselves.

But the nation's largest public utility has received a temporary extension. And regulators say TVA continues to meet requirements for withdrawals and discharges into the Tennessee River.

Still, the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation wants TVA to update 15-year-old data used to support the new permit. They also found problems with a self-monitoring program at the plant. And they say they won't consider a second reactor now under construction at Watts Bar until later.

Nuclear plants are subject to restrictions on the temperature of the discharged coolant because hot water can kill fish or plants or otherwise disrupt the environment. Those restrictions, coupled with the drought, led to a one-day shutdown last August of a TVA reactor at Browns Ferry in Alabama.

Watts Bar has never had that problem because TVA can release cool water from deep reservoirs north of Knoxville when the temperatures rise.

(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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