The US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has issued a 40-year licence to Tennessee Valley Authority to operate the Watts Bar Unit 2 plant near Spring City, until October 2055.
The approval is the first granted by the NRC in 20 years, with the last one being given to Watts Bar Unit 1 in 1996.
Scheduled to begin operations in 2016, the Watts Bar Unit 2 will bring the total nuclear plants in the US to 100.
According to the agency, Watts Bar is the first site to comply with the agency’s Fukushima-related orders on Mitigation Strategies and Spent Fuel Pool Instrumentation.
Two resident inspectors from the NRC will be stationed at the plant to monitor day-to-day activities.
NRC’s Office of Nuclear Reactor Regulation director Bill Dean said: "After devoting more than 200,000 hours over eight years conducting extensive safety reviews and inspections, we’re satisfied Unit 2 is safe to operate and we’ve issued TVA the operating licence."
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"We already monitor Unit 1’s performance through our Reactor Oversight Process, which is used at all reactor sites throughout the country, and we’re adding Unit 2 to that system."
With the receipt of the operating licence, TVA has completed the construction on Watts Bar Unit 2. It will now prepare for initial fuel load.
TVA chief nuclear officer Joe Grimes said: "Completing Watts Bar Unit 2 and successfully licensing one of the nation’s largest new nuclear generation projects is a historic milestone for TVA and the nuclear industry."
Located 60 miles southwest of Knoxville, the unit will generate 1,150MW. The units 1 and 2l together will produce nearly 2,300MW, enough to power 1.3 million homes.
Image: Unit 2 will begin operations in 2016. Photo: courtesy of Tennessee Valley Authority.