3,200 Workers Are Helping Complete The Nation’s First New Nuclear Reactor In 20 Years

Workers at Watts Bar Unit 2 scale scaffolding to run wires, check pipes and repaint the equipment installed decades ago. (photo by Stephen Jerkins)

Workers at Watts Bar Unit 2 scale scaffolding to run wires, check pipes and repaint the equipment installed decades ago. (photo by Stephen Jerkins)

Thousands of workers are helping complete the nation’s first new nuclear reactor in two decades. The Tennessee Valley Authority gave an update Friday on progress at Watts Bar Unit 2, near Chattanooga.

Over 3,500 people were working at Watts Bar, at the height of construction. TVA’s Mike Skaggs says that number is declining, as the reactor nears completion. About 3,200 employees are onsite right now.

“It will continue to slowly decrease in staffing levels over the next few months until we get to the point of fuel load, and we’ll have a significant reduction at that time,” Skaggs said on a conference call with reporters Friday.

TVA is offering workers help in finding other employment. The agency was hoping to send them to an unfinished reactor in Alabama. TVA mothballed the project last year, citing a drop in power demand.

While construction and contract employees are losing their jobs, TVA is looking to hire about 300 people to work at Watts Bar Unit 2 when it comes online at the end of 2015.

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