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North Carolina regulators seek answers about Lee Nuclear Station

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The North Carolina Utilities Commission has ordered Duke Energy to submit answers to questions surrounding the construction of the William States Lee III Nuclear Station in Cherokee County.

The questions stem from the decision by Westninghouse Electric Co. to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in order to get out of the nuclear construction business in order to focus on other sectors like nuclear fuel fabrication and maintenance.

Westinghouse, which is owned by Toshiba Corp., was slated to provide its AP1000 nuclear reactor units to the Lee Nuclear Station as well as to the V.C. Summer Nuclear Station — a joint venture between SCANA and Santee Cooper — located in Edgefield County and the Southern Co. project at Plant Vogtle near Waynesboro, Ga.

The North Carolina Waste Awareness and Reduction Network, or NC WARN, initially filed a response to a semiannual report from Duke. They asked the North Carolina Utilities Commission to issue a show cause order to Duke “to require it to provide an update on the financial status of Toshiba.” The commission denied the show cause order, but did order Duke to answer eight questions surrounding the construction of the Lee Nuclear Station.

“Globally, there are no companies left with the engineering or construction expertise, or the financial wherewithal, to undertake construction of the Westinghouse AP1000 design,” NC Warn said in a statement on its website following the filing of its response. “Westinghouse and other engineering and construction behemoths have run up billions in cost overruns and years of delay trying to build the AP1000 in Georgia and South Carolina, and completion of those projects is in grave doubt.”

Regulators ordered Duke to account for costs related to the station; the current estimate of total cost of the station “at commercial operation;” whether Duke has suspended investment in the project “until the Toshiba-Westinghouse situation is resolved;” and if Duke cancels the project will the company record abandoned project costs and “seek to include a return on such abandoned costs” on Duke’s current rate case in front of the commission.

“We are pleased the NCUC denied NC WARN’s motion for a show cause order,” said Ryan Mosier, Duke Energy spokesman, in an email to GSA Business Report. “We will provide information to the NCUC as requested.”

The commission has given Duke 60 days from May 15 to comply with the request.

Reach Matthew Clark at 864-720-1222.

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