(New Scientist) You could be forgiven for thinking a new era of nuclear energy is under way in the US. On 11 March, crews at the Virgil C Summer power plant in South Carolina completed a 51-hour marathon of pouring concrete. Three days later, in Burke County, Georgia, another concrete base was completed.

The two reactors that will sit on these bases will be Westinghouse AP1000s. Like older models, they will use uranium fission to heat water and drive a turbine, but these reactors will be smaller, simpler to build, and each will add more than 1100 megawatts of capacity to the region’s power grid when they come online in 2016 or 2017 – without emitting carbon dioxide.

They will be the first new reactors on US soil in over three decades. Besides the two reactors in progress, two more are planned – one at each plant. And work has resumed on a half-built reactor, Watts Bar 2 in Tennessee. It could be connected to the grid by 2015.

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