As part of President Barack Obama’s goal of promoting clean sources of energy, he guaranteed $8.3 billion in federal loans for the reactors, which helps cover the costs of the projects.
These reactors will be Westinghouse AP1000s and will use uranium fission to heat water and drive a turbine. However, these nuclear reactors will be easier to build, smaller, and more efficient than their counterparts. In fact, each nuclear reactor will add over 1100 megawatts capacity to the region’s power grid by the time they come online in 2016 or 2017.
Two more reactors are planned – one at each plant, and work has resumed on a half-built reactor, Watts Bar 2 in Tennessee. It will be connected to the grid by 2015.
The AP1000s are descendants of the reactors that have been around the 1950s, but they’ve had safety upgrades, straightforward circulation systems, and new pump designs.
That’s not the case in China, where massive government backing has allowed construction there to race ahead of the US. China is currently building 28 reactors, many of them AP1000s. One at the Sanmen Nuclear Power Station in Zhejiang Province will be the first operative AP1000 if it comes online later this year as planned.