Gov. Bill Lee visits TVA’s Clinch River Nuclear Site for first time

TVA is investing in the exploration of new nuclear technology that could bring thousands of jobs.
TVA is investing in the exploration of new nuclear technology that could bring thousands of jobs.
Published: Mar. 3, 2023 at 7:47 PM EST
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) - Governor Bill Lee made his first visit to the Clinch River Nuclear site in Kingston on Friday to look at the site where Tennessee hopes to make history by being the first in the country to have a new nuclear technology.

The Clinch River location is the only place in the United States with a site permit for a small modular reactor. The SMRs generate about a fourth of the power as conventional reactors currently in use by TVA.

New nuclear technologies offer advanced passive safety systems for improved safety and security. Nuclear energy is carbon-free and can run all day, every day. For this reason, it pairs well with intermittent renewable energy sources. In fact, advanced nuclear technology has the versatility to serve as baseload power or as a complement to renewables.

Lee was accompanied by Jeff Lyash, CEO of TVA, and Congressman Chuck Fleischmann. They toured the site and got to see what the property potentially is going to look like.

In February 2022, TVA launched its new nuclear program and approved $200 million to advance reactor technology. Lee has already committed $50 million to the new nuclear program.

“It’s a new day in America for understanding energy and the production of energy going forward. Certainly, things have changed dramatically over the decades. One of the things that’s changed most is the need for clean reliable energy,” said Lee.

Construction of new nuclear technologies, like a small modular reactor will create thousands of highly-skilled jobs and bring capital investments to the region.

TVA is looking at the possibility of multiple SMR deployments beyond the Clinch River Nuclear site. SMRs use fission to create heat that generates energy like a traditional nuclear reactor, but they are designed to be much smaller than the others.

The project consists of four different units on the Clinch River Site. Lyash said this is only the beginning if everything works out.

He said resilient energy sources are critical to the businesses and services that rely on them. Having a resilient power source during energy distributions can save billions in cost, maintain critical services and save lives.

“If we’re successful here, we’ll build four units, and the success of building four units will allow us to move on and develop other sites,” said Lyash.

There have been several public hearings, and there are more to come in the next phase of the project. People do live close to this site but Lyash said they are involving them with the process and he assures them the nuclear plant will be safe.

“This design takes a very safe technology and takes it to entirely new levels of safety,” said Lyash.

TVA officials said the project hopes to advance the company’s overall goal of achieving net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.

Lyash said this should bring jobs to Tennessee and can save money and lives. Lee hopes this will pave the way for nuclear technology in America.

The governor said that this project would be conducted in phases and would take about five to 10 years to be completed.