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Costing more than $6 billion and 40 years later – America’s Watts Bar nuclear reactor turned on

Nation’s First Nuclear Reactor in 20 Years Starts Operation, Bloomberg,  By Rebecca Kern Oct. 19 — The Tennessee Valley Authority’s Watts Bar Unit 2 reactor near Spring City, Tenn., officially began commercial operation Oct. 19, making it the first new commercial nuclear reactor to go online in the U.S. in the last 20 years.

The reactor has been more than 40 years in the making and cost approximately $6 billion to complete, not adjusting for inflation.

Watts Bar Unit 2 is one of five reactors in the U.S. expected to open in the next five years. However, cost overruns and delays are leading critics to question whether new nuclear plants will be built in the future.

Construction on Watts Bar Units 1 and 2 began in 1973. Work stopped on Unit 2 in 1985 due to deficiencies at the plant. Unit 1 began operation in 1996. In 2007, the TVA began efforts again to complete Unit 2, submitting an updated license application to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission in 2009 and received its operating license in October 2015. Unit 2 is the first new reactor in the U.S. since its sister plant started operations.

The Unit 2 startup comes at a time when nuclear operators have shut down—or announced plans to shut down—10 reactors in five states due to difficulty competing against low natural gas prices, according to the Nuclear Energy Institute, which represents the nuclear industry. The group predicts that an additional 15 to 20 nuclear reactors are at risk of premature closure in the coming years.

Marvin Fertel’s, NEI’s president and CEO, praised TVA’s completion of the plant……..

Mark Cooper, a senior research fellow for economic analysis at the Vermont Law School, said it is no longer financially viable to build new reactors in the U.S. Watts Bar Unit 2 “is not a monument to the future nuclear power, it’s a mausoleum for the future of nuclear power,” he told Bloomberg BNA Oct. 19.

Watchdogs Say Building Nuclear Too Costly

The TVA estimates that it spent $1.3 billion originally on the project. Work resumed after the board of directors approved $4 billion to $4.5 billion to complete the reactor in 2012, and then later approved an additional $200 million in 2016, bringing total estimated costs to $6 billion.

Critics say that the $6 billion price tag to complete Watts Bar Unit 2 is a reminder of the expense of building nuclear reactors today.

Tim Judson, executive director of the Nuclear Information and Research Service, a information center for environmentalists concerned about nuclear power and radioactive waste, said he would estimate Watts Bar Unit 2 cost between $7 billion and $8 billion when adjusted for inflation.

“As an economic enterprise, they are doomed,” Cooper said of nuclear reactors in the U.S………

To contact the reporter on this story: Rebecca Kern in Washington

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Larry Pearl


October 21, 2016 - Posted by | business and costs, USA

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