Duke Energy abandons plans to build Lee Nuclear plant

Posted Aug 26, 2017 by Karen Graham
Duke Energy Carolinas announced Friday that it is abandoning plans to build the Lee Nuclear Station due to the project's principal designer and contractor, Westinghouse, declaring bankruptcy.
Duke Energy s Belews Creek Steam Station  near Belews Lake  northwest of Greensboro  NC is the clean...
Duke Energy's Belews Creek Steam Station, near Belews Lake, northwest of Greensboro, NC is the cleanest, most efficient coal facilities in the U.S.
Duke Energy says it will be seeking to cancel plans for its nuclear plant in South Carolina and ask regulators to allow it to recover at least $368 million in planning and pre-construction costs.
The energy company's plans were noted in a rate case filed with the North Carolina Utilities Commission on Friday morning, seeking to increase revenues by about $647 million. This will amount to a rate increase of 13.6 percent across all customer groups, reports Green Tech Media.
Duke's decision comes just a couple weeks after South Carolina Electric and Gas Co. and its partner, Santee Cooper stopped work on the $18 billion V.C. Summer expansion plan after already spending $9 billion on the project. The companies had a choice then, too - Either charge customers more to pay for the expansion or go bankrupt.
When Westinghouse filed for bankruptcy in March, Duke Energy avoided answering questions about the Lee nuclear plant. The site for the plant in Gaffney, S.C. was first selected for a nuclear project in the 1970s, however, after the nuclear meltdown at the Three Mile Island Nuclear Generating Station in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania almost a decade later, the Lee site was abandoned.
Phipps Bend Nuclear Power Plant is a cancelled nuclear power plant of the Tennessee Valley Authority...
Phipps Bend Nuclear Power Plant is a cancelled nuclear power plant of the Tennessee Valley Authority. Image dated April 18, 2016.
Cliffton Reed
Then, in 2005, Duke Carolinas rebooted plans to build a $6 billion, two-reactor nuclear plant but didn't really commit to the project because nuclear projects in neighboring states were experiencing lengthy delays and budgets that were ballooning out of control.
In May this year, Duke Energy was asked by regulators to update the expected costs of the Lee nuclear plant, which had already increased to $11 million by 2008. Regulators also wanted Duke to clarify whether they were going ahead with the project or abandoning their plans because Duke needs the commission's approval to shut down the Lee site.
In a press release, the company stated that nuclear power is a "vital component" of Duke Energy's generation portfolio. Duke Energy will maintain the license to build new nuclear at this site in the future if it is in the best interest of customers."
The decision by Duke to abandon the site is sad because it comes at a time when nuclear energy is needed in addition to the clean energy revolution taking place across the globe. And with Westinghouse getting out of nuclear construction, should Duke decide in the future to go ahead with a nuclear plant, they will need to get the license amended.