Watts Bar Nuclear Generating Station. Photo from Tennessee Valley Authority via Flickr.

Watts Bar 2 is nearing completion, and the Tennessee Valley Authority says that when the nuclear reactor in Rhea County, Tennessee, is completed, “it will produce the nation’s first new nuclear generation of the 21st century.”

A 21st century plant but with deep roots in the 20th century – construction on the Westinghouse-designed pressurized water reactor and its companion Watts Bar 1 began way back in the early ’70s.

“It’s going to be the brand-new eight-track tape player in the fleet,” said David Lochbaum, director of Union of Concerned Scientists’ nuclear safety project, in an Associated Press story.

The Watts Bar project was by all accounts a flustercluck, but WBN Unit 1 did manage to get licensed in 1996. It remains, says the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, “the last power reactor to be licensed in the United States.”

Work on the largely built but not yet completed Unit 2, however, was suspended in 1985. Along with cost overruns and work-quality issues, there was the matter of the TVA perhaps not needing all the new power it thought it would when a massive nuclear construction program was envisioned a generation earlier.

But in 2006, TVA told the NRC it wanted to finish the Unit 2 job “with the goal of producing power from the reactor in 2013.”

Now, in 2015, Watts Bar 2 is perhaps just weeks from receiving its operating license, which would allow the 1,150-megawatt plant “to load its nuclear fuel toward the end of the summer and gradually start operations,” the AP reports.