CHATTANOOGA, Tenn.—The first new nuclear reactor in the U.S. in nearly two decades has received an operating license and will be up and running early next year.
The Tennessee Valley Authority, which runs the Watts Bar Nuclear Generating Station, received the license from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission Oct. 22 for the second of its two reactors. The plant’s first unit has been running since 1996, giving the station the distinction of being the last American plant to come online in the 20th century. With the licensing of the new Westinghouse pressurized water reactor, the plant will now also be the first to come online in the 21st century.
“This achievement signifies more than a stage in construction for TVA,” the company’s president and CEO, Bill Johnson, said. “It demonstrates to the people of the Valley that we have taken every step possible to deliver low cost, carbon-free electricity safely and with the highest quality.”
With the license in hand, the Watts Bar staff are now focusing on preparing the initial fuel load, which requires several weeks of work and ongoing inspections. The Spring City, Tenn. plant’s second reactor is scheduled to begin operations early in 2016.
“Completing Watts Bar Unit 2 and successfully licensing one of the nation’s largest new nuclear generation projects is a historic milestone for TVA and the nuclear industry,” TVA Chief Nuclear Officer, Joe Grimes, said. “With the delivery of this unit, we are further positioning nuclear power as a key player in TVA’s – and the nation’s – energy portfolio and instilling confidence in TVA and the nuclear industry.”
Between the plant’s two reactors Watts Bar will produce nearly 2,300 megawatts of carbon-free energy—enough to power 1.3 million homes.
The project employed 3,500 people at peak and cost an estimated US$6 billion