Nuclear Family Album : Snapshots of the Nuclear Generation Gap

Author: Velocity Suite Power Analyst

The phrase “Nuclear Renaissance,” coined at the start of the 21st Century, has fallen out of use following the recession at the end of the last decade, the Fukushima Daiichi disaster in 2011 and the recent proliferation of cheap and plentiful natural gas. Several nuclear units have been retired, notably the earlier than expected deactivations of Crystal River in Florida and Vermont Yankee in New England.
Nuclear Deactivations in the US
Planned Nuclear Deactivations
In addition, several planned new units have been canceled. Most recently, TVA announced that it has scrapped plans to finish the Bellefonte project in Alabama and intends to put the site up for auction.
Planned Operating Nuclear Capacity
While nuclear generation in the US isn’t enjoying the anticipated renaissance, after a twenty year hiatus, there is a new generation of nuclear units.
New Nuke Capacity by Prime Mover
In May 1996, Unit 1 at the Watts Bar Nuclear Facility in Rhea County, Tennessee, became the last US nuclear reactor to reach commercial operation in the 20th Century. Watts Bar Unit 2 was under construction but was abandoned in the 1980s. Almost exactly 20 years after the completion of Unit 1, Unit 2 is now slated to become the first US nuclear reactor of the 21st Century.
Watts Bar Unit 2 Timeline
In between, Browns Ferry Unit 1 in Limestone County, Alabama, which had been out of service since 1986, was restarted in 2007.
Browns Ferry Unit 1 Restart Timeline
The newest unit at Watts Bar will be followed by Vogtle Units 3 and 4 in Burke County, GA, which are currently under construction and are expected to become operational in 2019 & 2020, respectively. VC Summer Unit 2 is also under construction & expected to become operational in 2018.
One week after announcing cancellation of the Bellefonte project, TVA filed an Early Site Permit (ESP) for a small, modular reactor project at its Clinch River site in Tennessee and the NRC just issued an ESP for a new reactor at the PSEG Salem site in New Jersey.
New and Planned Nukes 2
It remains to be seen how many of the proposed new nuclear units will actually reach operation. The ones that are currently under construction are on track to be realized. It’s likely that at least some of the units still in early development will ultimately be abandoned, but the newest units at Watts Bar, Vogtle and VC Summer, as well as the development of smaller, modular reactors, are historically significant.
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