First new U.S. nuclear reactor in 20 years goes live

First new U.S. nuclear reactor in 20 years goes live

The Tennessee Valley Authority is celebrating an event 43 years in the making: the completion of the Watts Bar Nuclear Plant.

In 1973, the TVA, one of the nation’s largest public power providers, began building two reactors that combined promised to generate enough power to light up 1.3 million homes.

The first reactor, delayed by design flaws, eventually went live in 1996. Now, after billions of dollars in budget overruns, the second reactor has finally started sending power to homes and businesses.

Standing in front of both reactors Wednesday, TVA President Bill Johnson said Watts Bar 2, the first US reactor to enter commercial operation in 20 years, would offer clean, cheap and reliable energy to residents of several southern states for at least another generation.

“If you’re in the nuclear business, the sight behind me is a lovely sight,” Johnson said. “It’s a sight we’ve been waiting for some years to see, which is steam coming out of both cooling towers, meaning that both units are running. You can hear that turbine rolling. It’s a great day.”

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