You Will Never Believe What Disney World is Legally Allowed to Build in Florida

Magic Kingdom could have built a megaton surprise.

Generations of kids have grown up believing that Disney can create just about anything via animation, but adults might be surprised to learn that Disney World is allowed to do in Florida: Build its own nuclear power plant. 

That ability was granted in a 1967 law which was passed four years before Disney World opened, granting the company the legal right to construct a nuclear reactor on its land south of Orlando, Florida. The original concept for Disney World was to create a literal Tomorrowland, and at the time, nuclear power was considered a major energy resource for the future, at least by Walt Disney.

Walt Disney's City of the Future

Under his guidance, Disney World established the Reedy Creek Improvement District, which essentially made the amusement park its own government with its own laws and privileges—including the ability to build that nuke plant and a create its own police force (although Disney has so far done neither). At the time Disney World was announced, the land on which it was built was uninhabited and mostly unused swampland. The agreement was a trade-off: Disney would foot the bill for costs of development and maintenance (including sewage and utilities), thus saving Florida taxpayers those costs, and the state would grant the company a bit (or a lot, if you consider nuclear power privileges such) of sovereignty.  

Whether Disney would build such a reactor is up for question. A Disney employee who spoke to Bloomberg found the idea of a nuclear reactor on the property "absurd," considering the controversial reputation of nuclear energy. (Florida Governor Ron DeSantis supports a bill that would dissolve Reedy Creek in 2023. It would eliminate Disney's special privileges, including the ability to build the power plant, which it has never signaled plans to do now or previously.).

Going Green

But the Mouse Kingdom didn't abandon Disney's visionary path and is trying to cut carbon emissions in other ways. "[Walt Disney] really believed in green technologies," Christian Moran, director of the documentary Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow: The Futurism of Walt Disney, told Bloomberg.

In recent years Disney World has been building a lot of solar farms and trying to use natural gas. "Their 270-acre, 50-megawatt solar farm near Epcot Center is in the shape of Mickey's head, is made of 48,000 solar panels. The Cinderella Castle's holiday display of 170,000 lights has been switched to LED lighting, reducing the amount of power needed down to that required to power four coffee pots," reports Forbes.

Michael Martin
Michael Martin is a New York City-based writer and editor whose health and lifestyle content has also been published on Beachbody and Openfit. A contributing writer for Eat This, Not That!, he has also been published in New York, Architectural Digest, Interview, and many others. Read more
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