The Nuclear Regulatory Commission just greenlit its first new nuclear power plant in 20 years. The group has granted an operating license for the Watts Bar Unit 2 reactor located in Spring City, Tennessee. The reactor has taken over 40 years and billions of dollars to complete, yet it has finally undergone the final inspections needed to get up and running.


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The Tennessee Valley Authority was granted the license for the Watts Bar Unit 2 reactor, joining the ranks of only four reactors expected to power up by the year 2020. Initial construction began in 1972, yet a 22 year hiatus occurred in 1985 as the reactor, and its planned twin, ended up costing a considerable amount more to develop than originally planned – twice as much. Construction resumed in 2007 and hit a new wall after the 2011 Fukushima disaster. Understandably, tight new safety regulations were put into place by the NRC and the bill climbed to an estimated $4.5 billion for the Unit 2 reactor to reach completion.

Related: Japan just restarted its first nuclear reactor since the post-Fukushima shutdown

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Currently, 100 nuclear power plants provide 19.6 percent of electricity in the US. This number is expected to rise as new regulations are placed on the natural gas industry to reduce carbon emissions. Right now, natural gas is cheaper to use as an energy source, yet the price of complying with these regulations may even the playing field for nuclear power. CEO of TVA, Bill Johnson, says about the news of being given licensure, “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.”

Via The Verge

Images via Tennessee Valley Authority