A nuclear power reactor will open in the US for the first time in two decades. But this reactor, called Watts Bar Unit 2—one of two near Spring City, Tennessee—isn’t quite new. Most of it was built in the 1970s and ’80s alongside Unit 1, which came online in 1996 and has performed flawlessly.The two reactors are essentially identical interms of safety, technology, and output. But there’s been one major advance in the 20 years separating their openings: widespread acceptance of fossil fuels’ role in climate change, and the urgent need to wean the economy from it.
Those fears may be moot. Safety concerns didn’t delay construction on Watts Bar Unit 2 for so many years. Economics did. For all that fear, nuclear power still has the safest track record of any power source.