Welcome to the Nuclear Heartland

The first US nuclear power plant to gain a license in over a decade is scheduled to go online this year.

The world's nuclear power industry got a wake-up call last March when a six-reactor complex in Fukushima, Japan, was heavily damaged by an earthquake and tsunami. As the disaster unfolded in Japan, operators of the 104 nuclear power plants in the US began a reassessment of safety issues. The Watts Bar generating station in Tennessee has often been singled out as a threat to the surrounding region. In the 1980s, an inspection of the plant uncovered over 5,000 concerns, forcing the Tennessee Valley Authority to halt construction of two reactors there. The TVA was finally able to complete one of the units in 1996 at a cost of nearly $8 billion. In 2007, the public utility decided to complete the construction of the second unit. The second reactor is scheduled to go online in 2012. If that happens, Watts Bar Unit 2 will be the first nuclear power plant to receive a license in 16 years.