KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Bechtel Power Corp. announced March 1 that it is laying off more than 600 engineers and support staff as design work ends ahead of construction of a second reactor at the Tennessee Valley Authority’s (TVA’s) Watts Bar nuclear power plant.
Francis Caravan, a spokesman for Bechtel, told the Knoxville News Sentinel that workers are receiving layoff notices now.
“The engineering and design work for the final construction of Unit 2 at Watts Bar is nearing completion, and employees will be released gradually as the work decreases over the coming months,” Caravan said.
Bechtel is laying off 343 of its employees who work at TVA’s East Tower in Knoxville and an additional 272 workers for subcontractors at the project site in Spring City. The layoffs will take place through Sept. 30.
Bechtel and its contractors put the project on track to start construction by 2013 as planned, TVA spokesman Jim Allen told the Knoxville paper.
Some of the workers will be able to find more work on other TVA projects, he said.
“Some of the engineers and staff released from the Watts Bar project will be reassigned to other engineering work for their employers,” he said.
San Francisco-based Bechtel secured the $1 billion contract from TVA to lead engineering, procurement and construction work on Unit 2 at Watts Bar.
Bechtel’s employees gave a boost to Knoxville’s economy.
More than 300 engineers and other support staff moved into the TVA East Tower in 2007. University of Tennessee economist Matt Murray estimated that they pumped about $10 million a year into the Knoxville economy because they had an average annual income of $50,000.
Rhonda Rice, of the Knoxville Chamber of Commerce, said that the downtown economy would feel the loss of the workers but everyone knew they were temporary.
TVA is the nation’s largest public utility. It provides electricity for nearly 9 million customers in most of Tennessee and parts of Alabama, Mississippi, Kentucky, Georgia, North Carolina and Virginia.