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Duke Energy seeks to cancel Cherokee County nuclear project

Energy
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Duke Energy is asking the North Carolina Utilities Commission to approve cancellation of the development of a new reactor project at Lee Nuclear Station in Cherokee County.

Duke officials cited the recent bankruptcy filing by Westinghouse Electric Co. — designer of the pressurized water reactors for the site — as the primary reason for abandoning the project. Elsewhere in the state, S.C. Electric & Gas and Santee Cooper have abandoned plans for a nuclear generation project at V.C. Summer Nuclear Station in Fairfield County, citing the same reason.

Duke Energy said it would maintain the license to build the Lee Nuclear Station near Gaffney, in case it becomes feasible later.

“Nuclear energy continues to be an important part of Duke Energy’s diverse energy mix that reliably serves customers every day,” Duke Energy spokesman Ryan Mosier said. “While we are canceling the development of the Lee nuclear project, the license and other investments remain an important asset.”

Unlike with the Fairfield County project, Duke had yet to start any construction in Gaffney. SCE&G and Santee Cooper have spent approximately $9 billion on the construction of two reactor units at Summer. The utility companies co-own an existing 966-megawatt unit that went into operation in 1984.

The proposed Lee Nuclear Station would have generated 2,234 MW and employed more than 900 people once operational. More than 4,000 workers would have been employed during the construction of the plant. In 2008, Duke estimated the cost of building the two units at $11 billion.

Duke Energy is also asking the utilities commission to approve a rate increase for its North Carolina customers to generate an additional $647 million in revenue. If that increase is approved, the average residential rate would be 16.7% higher, and rates for commercial and industrial customers would increase approximately 10.9%. The company’s last request to raise rates in North Carolina was in 2013.

“Canceling the project now helps keep costs lower for customers while also meeting the state’s energy needs through the use of cost-effective natural gas, existing nuclear plants and expanded renewable energy,” Mosier said.

Construction of Duke Energy’s $600 million combined-cycle facility in Anderson County is ongoing and is expected to be completed later this year. Mosier said once completed, that facility will provide 750 megawatts of power for the Upstate region.

Reach Matthew Clark at 864-720-1222.

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August 30, 2017

Duke Energy, like SCE&G should have to refund all rate increases that were to pay for nuclear reactors. Stock holders dividends suspended, employee bonuses suspended, employee raises limited to under inflation until consumers are repaid. Consumers should not be paying for Duke Energy & SCE&G management mistakes in not purchasing insurance on this project or mismanaging this project.