SACE | Southern Alliance for Clean Energy

Prevent New Reactors at Watts Bar


SACE challenges licensing of second reactor at Watts Bar: Claims Fukushima lessons learned ignored

SACE is working to stop the Tennessee Valley Authority’s (TVA) costly plan to build and operate a second nuclear reactor at the Watts Bar nuclear plant near Spring City, Tennessee from becoming a reality. The reactor already online was one of the most expensive reactors ever built in the United States. Building an additional nuclear reactor would exacerbate existing safety and environmental problems, harm ratepayers, and further stress the Tennessee River.


Oppose High Risk Energy


  • The Watts Bar Unit 2 reactor has already cost $1.7 billion because the reactor was being built alongside Unit 1 before TVA realized it had overestimated demand for power and stopped construction on the second reactor in 1985. TVA originally estimated another $2.49 billion will be required to complete the project.
  • TVA has since experienced numerous delays, cost increases and problems with the project. New cost and schedule estimates from TVA in April 2012 are projecting an additional $1.5-2 billion to complete with the completion date pushed to 2015. The total cost estimate is now $4-4.5 billion in addition to what was originally spent before the reactor was abandoned.


  • The Tennessee River, upon which Watts Bar is located, is already incredibly stressed. Another nuclear reactor would just increase the negative impacts to this important resource upon which communities and businesses rely.
  • Water discharged from nuclear power plants is much warmer than the rest of the river, causing “thermal plumes” which negatively affect aquatic life.
  • Nuclear power is the most water-intensive of all energy sources, including coal. TVA reports that the existing reactor at Watts Bar withdraws an average of 188.2 million gallons per day (mgd) from the Tennessee River, and returns an average of 173.9 mgd, meaning that every day 14.3 million gallons of water are lost from one nuclear reactor through evaporative cooling. TVA says an additional reactor at Watts Bar would increase the water intake at the plant by 33%.


  • Read more about our NRC licensing challenge regarding post-Fukushima seismic and flooding risks that have not been adequately addressed at Watts Bar.
  • Both the existing and proposed nuclear reactors at Watts Bar are ice condenser reactors. This type of reactor, commonly referred to as having “eggshell-like” containment, is considered to have serious design flaws. You can read more about ice condenser reactors in Kenneth Bergeron’s Tritium on Ice, available as a Google Book.


  • More nuclear reactors at Watts Bar means more radioactive waste in Tennessee. With no federal repository or long-term radioactive waste management plan to deal with the dangerous waste, Watts Bar will have to store and secure its waste onsite for an indefinite period of time.

Additional Information