2017-08-16 / Local News

Duke Energy regarding fate of local nuke project ... ... When we know, you’ll know

By TIM GULLA
Ledger Staff Writer

A Duke Energy official agreed in response to an official inquiry from state Sen. Harvey Peeler that local residents deserve to know what’s going on with the proposed William States Lee III Nuclear Station in Gaffney.

Unfortunately, according to the response, there’s no firm answer just yet but there’s a hint that some answers might be coming by the end of the month.

On Aug. 2 Peeler sent a letter to Duke Energy’s Kodwo Ghartey- Tagoe, president of Duke Energy in South Carolina, requesting an official update on the status of the nuclear plant proposed for McKowns Mountain in light of the recent decision by other utilities, Santee Cooper and SCE&G, to halt construction of two new nuclear reactors at the V.C. Summer plant in Fairfield County. The two utilities had already spent $9 billion on their project, which was using the same Westinghouse AP1000 reactors planned for Gaffney, when they pulled the plug.

The abandonment of that project, which was years behind schedule and billions over budget, followed the recent bankruptcy of Westinghouse.

Duke has never actually committed to building a nuclear plant in Gaffney but has so far spent almost $541.6 million over the past decade to obtain a construction and operation license from the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission and to get the McKowns Mountain site ready, including the acquisition of additional land.

“In light of the recent events with other utility providers in South Carolina, my constituents, who receive their utility services primarily through Duke Energy, have growing apprehension in regards to the Lee Nuclear Station,” Peeler wrote to Ghartey-Tagoe. “I would like to ease their shared concerns and be able to adequately respond to their questions.”

Peeler also wanted to know if Duke Energy will be seeking reimbursement from its power customers for the money it has already spent developing the Lee nuclear project.

Ghartey-Tagoe, in an Aug. 9 response, said Duke Energy, like its industry peers, was closely following the developments at V.C. Summer and Westinghouse and noted Duke has not yet made a final decision on proceeding with the Cherokee County project.

He noted that the North Carolina Utilities Commission has asked Duke to provide it with information about the Westinghouse bankruptcy, expenditures on the Lee project and cost recovery plans and that Duke — thanks to a time extension — has until Aug. 30 to provide North Carolina regulators with that information.

“While the extension gives us to Aug. 30, we have informed the commission we will include information in an upcoming North Carolina rate increase request which we expect to file on or about Aug. 25,” Ghartey-Tagoe informed Peeler.

He added, “Your support and the support of Cherokee County as a whole, for Duke Energy and the potential for new nuclear generation over the years, has been greatly appreciated. You and your constituents deserve to know what is going on this with project and I assure you, once we have more information to share, I will be in touch.”

Offering his thanks for a quick response from Duke, Peeler said he will be following the situation closely. “Duke customers deserve to know decisions on the Lee project are being handled with the utmost of accountability and responsibility,” he said.

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