SACE | Southern Alliance for Clean Energy

Prevent New Reactors at Watts Bar


Nuclear Regulatory Commissioners Ignore Fukushima Lessons Learned – Denies SACE’s Appeal in Licensing of TVA’s Watts Bar 2 Reactor

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. Unit 1 was one of the most expensive reactors ever built in the United States, coming online in 1996 after beginning construction back in 1973 and costing approximately $6.8 billion. Watts Bar 2 represents the longest construction history of any nuclear reactor in the world, over four decades! Operating an additional nuclear reactor would exacerbate existing safety and environmental problems, harm ratepayers and further stress the Tennessee River.


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  • $1.7 billion was already spent on Watts Bar Unit 2 reactor because it 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 late 2015. The total cost estimate is now $4-4.5 billion in addition to what was originally spent before the reactor was abandoned. Original cost estimates for both reactors was $825 million; final costs will be well over $10 billion.


  • 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

  • Check out the NRC’s task force report on Fukushima, which mentions Watts Bar specifically. SACE and over 40 allies filed a petition to stop licensing proceedings, which was denied. In August 2011, SACE filed new Fukushima-related contentions related to environmental impacts from severe reactor and spent fuel pool accidents with the NRC, which were rejected in spite of serious safety concerns. For information on SACE’s efforts in 2014-2015 to raise serious post-Fukushima seismic and safety concerns, click here.
  • Read more about the NRC licensing of Watts Bar Unit 2.
  • Find out about TVA’s plan to complete and operate Watts Bar 2.