Yellow Creek Nuclear Power Plant – Iuka, Mississippi - Atlas Obscura

Yellow Creek Nuclear Power Plant

Instead of becoming a power plant, this abandoned complex became a massive letdown. 


This strange structure near Iuka, Mississippi was a billion-dollar mistake.

In a fit of optimism, the Tennessee Valley Authority (T.V.A.) commissioned a whopping 17 new nuclear power plants in the late 1970s. Yellow Creek was one of them. The skeletal, circular construction so clearly visible from the air was meant to be a cooling tower base. However, the tower was never built, as the Yellow Creek Nuclear Power Plant became one of eight partially-completed projects the T.V.A. was forced to cancel. After spending $1.2 billion dollars, the agency would end construction, citing overestimation of the region’s need for electricity.

T.V.A. wasn’t the only agency making mistakes in the 70s. Cost overruns in nuclear plant construction continued to balloon nationwide, while a projected demand for electricity remained nowhere in sight. A 1985 Forbes article would call the nuclear power program in the United States “the largest managerial disaster in business history [..] only the blind, or the biased, can now think that the money has been well spent.”

The power plant’s cancellation was a deeply-felt loss for Iuka and its neighboring towns, which had spent years counting on jobs and tax revenues that never materialized. For a brief moment in the 1980s though, the economically-depressed region seemed to be granted another windfall when NASA - lured by the abandoned T.V.A. infrastructure - chose Yellow Creek as a new site for the production of solid rocket motors. But, after a $1.5 billion investment and years of planning and construction, Congress pulled the plug on funding for the NASA site in 1993. It was 80% complete.

The incomplete building beside the cooling tower base is where the liquid components of the rocket fuels were to be turned to solids. Instead, both structures stand unused, a veritable complex of disappointment.

Know Before You Go

There is now a gate around the road to this place. You may no longer enter.

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