Nuclear Plant Wins Low-Power License

Associated Press

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission approved a low-power permit Thursday for the Tennessee Valley Authority’s Watts Bar nuclear power plant in Tennessee, ending a 23-year struggle to license the last commercial reactor still being built.

At the same time, the agency said that the TVA could restart another one of its reactors, the Browns Ferry Unit 2 near Decatur, Ala. The reactor has been shut down for a decade.

Critics called the Watts Bar plant a white elephant, but supporters of the reactor near Spring City, Tenn., said it can be operated safely and is needed to meet the region’s electricity needs.

The $6.8-billion, 1,270-megawatt power plant was first proposed in 1972, and construction began a year later at a projected cost of $370 million.


The NRC clearance for a low-power license marks the end of the longest licensing battle for a nuclear power plant in U.S. history. The reactor will undergo test operation for about six months before the NRC will decide whether to give the go-ahead to push it to full power for commercial operation.

In 1985, TVA considered construction complete at Watts Bar, but then it was forced to withdraw its application for an operating license after employees raised concern about safety issues that have since been resolved.