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TVA takes steps to avoid Fukushima problems with new reactor

Senator Lamar Alexander toured the building that's meant to help a disaster at the reactor like the one in Fukushima
TVA's FLEX Equipment Storage Building at Watts Bar

(WBIR) After years of delays, construction and testing of the country's first nuclear reactor in nearly two decades is well underway in East Tennessee.

Part of the project includes implementing lessons learned from the Fukushima disaster in Japan.

Tennessee Valley Authority constructed what it calls a "FLEX" building to house the Watts Bar backup generators. It's a 47-ton concrete building that is waterproof, tornado-proof, and earthquake-proof.

Related: TVA to assemble Watts Bar 2 nuclear reactor this week

According to Mike Skaggs, TVA Senior Vice President, the building features around 150 micropiles that tie it to the bedrock.

U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander toured the site with TVA officials on Wednesday morning.

He said the new back-up generator building is all about safety in hopes of avoiding problems like they had in Japan.

"The problem in Fukushima was a pretty simple problem. There wasn't enough, they lost power and didn't have electricity to pump water in to cool the reactor. It was that simple a problem. And this takes care of that. By making sure there's enough power to take water out of the river and cool down any reactor that's a problem," Alexander said.

Previous: New nuclear reactor at Watts Bar passes major test

When the entire Watts Bar 2 project is complete, it will be the first commercial nuclear reactor to go online in the U.S. during the 21st century. Watts Bar 1 was the most recent U.S. reactor and went online in 1996.

TVA expects the new reactor to power about 650,000 homes.