U.S. electric power giant Duke Energy has asked a regulator’s permission to abandon its plan to build a 2,234 megawatt, US$11-billion nuclear generating station at Gaffney, South Carolina, leaving a site in Georgia as the last in America where new power reactors are being built.
Duke Energy Carolinas sought the approval of the North Carolina Utilities Commission (required because the company is headquartered in Charlotte, NC, and the plant’s proposed service area included the city) to kill the planned William S. Lee nuclear power project before construction begins, Greentech Media reports. Duke is also seeking a rate increase, in part to cover the $541 million it has already spent for the plant’s design.
Duke’s announcement makes it the third company to walk away from a nuclear investment in recent weeks. Last month, SCANA Corp. and Santee Cooper abandoned an $18-billion co-venture to expand their V.C. Summer nuclear generation facility.
Duke maintained in a release that nuclear power remains a “vital component” of its portfolio while blaming market uncertainty, rather than the cost of nuclear technology, for the decision to cancel the Lee project.
“Most notably, risks and uncertainties to initiating construction on the Lee Nuclear project have become too great, and cancellation of the project is the best option for customers,” the company said. It noted, however, that “Duke Energy will maintain the licence to build new nuclear at this site in the future if it is in the best interest of customers.”
Like the V.C. Summer reactors, those contemplated for the Lee facility were designed by Westinghouse Electric, which declared bankruptcy in March and threw the industry’s American future into doubt.
Georgia Power is now the last U.S. utility building new nuclear generating capacity. Georgia regulators have said the two Westinghouse-designed reactors the company is adding to an existing pair at the Alvin W. Vogtle nuclear site on the Savannah River near Waynesboro, GA are close to completion, after $4.5 billion in construction costs.