US Has New Nuclear Reactor for 1st Time in 20 Years

It's the 100th commercial nuclear reactor in the US
By Michael Harthorne,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 21, 2016 6:30 PM CDT
First US Nuclear Reactor of 21st Century Completed
The nuclear reactors at the Watts Bar Nuclear Plant in Tennessee are seen in 2015. The second reactor was declared complete Wednesday, wrapping up a 43-year project.   (AP Photo/Mark Zaleski)

The first commercial nuclear reactor of the 21st century—and the first in 20 years—was officially declared complete Wednesday in Tennessee, the AP reports. According to CNN, the Tennessee Valley Authority started work on the Watts Bar Nuclear Plant in 1973. The first reactor didn't open until 1996. The completion of the second reactor this week wraps up a 43-year project. "If you're in the nuclear business, the sight behind me is a lovely sight," TVA president Bill Johnson says. It took nine years and $4.7 billion to build the second reactor, WRCB reports. The project was over budget by billions. A nuclear engineer tells the Chattanooga Times Free Press that finishing the Watts Bar Nuclear Plant was the "most difficult, complex project I've ever worked on."

The new reactor is expected to provide electricity for at least 40 years and generates enough power for 650,000 homes. It's the 100th commercial reactor in the country. US Sen. Lamar Alexander says the reactor "will provide cheap, carbon-free, and reliable electricity." Alexander wants another 100 nuclear reactors in the US. But TVA, which now has seven nuclear reactors, says it has no plans to build more after the completion of Watts Bar. (More nuclear power plant stories.)

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