Despite Canceling 2 Nuclear Plants, Duke Won't Rule Out Future Ones

Sep 4, 2017

Duke Energy announced last week it's pulling the plug on two proposed nuclear power projects.  But executives say Duke isn't shutting the door on the idea of building more nuclear plants someday.

Duke got federal licenses last fall, but hadn't started construction on either the Levy County project in Florida or the William States Lee plant in South Carolina. Now the company says it won't build the plants.

But Duke nuclear power executive Scott Batson says the company isn't ruling out future nuclear projects. He discusses the topic on Monday’s edition of Charlotte Talks.

"The term that we used is 'cancel the project,' but we will maintain that combined construction and operating license as an option for a new power plant in the future," Batson says.

Duke scrapped its plans because of construction delays and cost overruns at other projects, and the bankruptcy of its reactor designer, Westinghouse Electric.

Duke's decision came at an earlier stage than one in July by two South Carolina utilities. Santee Cooper and SCE&G abandoned the troubled V.C. Summer plant north of Columbia - in mid-construction.  

That leaves only one big nuclear project under construction in the U.S. - the Vogtle plant in Georgia. Last week, its owner, the Southern Company, bucked the trend by deciding to continue construction - despite similar cost overruns and delays.

Also on Charlotte Talks, Bloomberg analyst Kit Konolige says those kinds of troubles have created a lot of uncertainty about nuclear power. 

"I'd say at this point, people for the time being at any rate are concluding it will not be a likely source of new power plant construction any time in the near future," Konolige says. 

Duke says it's sticking with its six existing plants in the Carolinas, which generate about half the electricity used in the two states.

Listen to a Charlotte talks on the future of nuclear power at 9 a.m. Monday, Sept. 4, or online on the Charlotte Talks page