2016-10-05 / Front Page

Hearing regarding proposed nuclear plant wraps up

Decision expected soon
By TIM GULLA
Ledger Staff Writer

The three members of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission heard testimony Thursday on Duke Energy's plans to build a new nuclear facility in Cherokee County. A decision by the commissioners is expected soon.The three members of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission heard testimony Thursday on Duke Energy's plans to build a new nuclear facility in Cherokee County. A decision by the commissioners is expected soon.The three members of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission will soon make a decision on whether Duke Energy will receive a license to construct and operate a new nuclear power facility here. 

A final hearing on Duke Energy’s application for a combined construction and operating license (COL) for the proposed William States Lee Nuclear Station in McKowns Mountain began Thursday at the NRC headquarters in Maryland at 9 a.m. and wrapped up shortly after 2 p.m. Duke applied for the license in 2007 and Thursday’s hearing was perhaps the biggest milestone to date for the proposed project.

During the hearing, the three members of the NRC Board of Commissioners heard testimony from numerous Duke Energy officials as well as from scientists and engineers on the NRC staff about the project, any lingering issues, environmental concerns and staff recommendations that Duke be granted the license.

Chris Fallon, vice president of nuclear development at Duke Energy, said in his opening statement that Duke, as a longtime operator of nuclear facilities, has the necessary skills, expertise and personnel to build and operate the proposed new plant. Fallon said Duke has historically received about 50 percent of its energy from nuclear and has rates that are 20 percent to 30 percent below regional and national averages, demonstrating the cost competitive nature of nuclear. 

“We selected the Lee site after a comprehensive evaluation of alternative sites,” he noted. 

Another Duke official said during Thursday’s hearing that Duke looked at as many as 23 sites, in both North Carolina and South Carolina, before narrowing its list and ultimately focusing on the parcel in McKowns Mountain, located next to the Broad River, which was previously selected as the site of a nuclear facility that was never built. 

Duke has not yet officially committed to building the multi-billion dollar facility however, a fact which one NRC commissioner questioned the utility about. If Duke gets the license and makes a decision to go forward with construction, it would take at least a year from that decision to proceed with construction for actual work to begin. 

Duke’s current long-range plans call for the first of the two nuclear reactors planned for the Cherokee County site to go online in 2026.

While a firm date for a decision by the NRC on the license has not been announced, NRC Chairman Stephen Burns said at the conclusion of the hearing, “As I mentioned this morning, the commission expects to issue a final decision promptly on the record before us with due regard to the complexity of the issues that we have faced today.”

The NRC Commissioners can ask follow-up post-hearing questions if they need additional information or clarification, it was noted. Any questions will likely be asked by Oct. 12 while the deadline for responses to NRC Commissioner questions will likely be Oct. 20, Stephens said.

Return to top

Print Edition

Click here for digital edition
2016-10-05 digital edition

Special Sections

Poll

Should Gaffney City Council overrule the Accommodations Tax Advisory committee and grant the S.C. Peach Festival’s request for $15,000 to promote the event?