The Tennessee Valley Authority’s top executive says more nuclear plants could be in the works in the coming years following the completion of the Watts Bar nuclear reactor, which is expected to be finished by the end of 2015.
After a a spate of cost over-runs and delays, the Watts Bar nuclear reactor near Spring City will have cost $4.5 billion. It’s expected to be the first reactor to come on line in almost two decades.
When asked if the TVA plans on re-starting any other nuclear reactors, or building new ones, after Watts Bar, Bill Johnson, who leads the utility, said: “I can imagine building a new plant, restarting one that’s partially finished,” Johnson said, adding a caveat. “Our focus on the moment is finishing the one we are working on.”
The TVA’s single largest energy source is coal, which is the country’s most significant greenhouse gas contributor About a third of the TVA’s energy is derived from nuclear. But that percentage is almost destined to go up, since the utility is slowly phasing out energy produced by coal. That’s due to both new targets from the Environmental Protection Agency aimed at slashing carbon emissions and the abundance of cheap natural gas extracted through fracking,
Although it’s generally viewed as a more environmentally-friendly energy source, one issue that remains unresolved with nuclear-fired plants is how exactly to best dispose of toxic nuclear waste.