Duke Energy has been reducing its reliance on fossil fuels, with the closing of old coal-fired plants and the expansion of solar and wind farms. But nuclear power is also an important part of the company’s energy mix, and that could be about to expand.
Duke hasn’t built a new nuclear power plant since 1987. But the utility may soon get the go ahead to begin construction on a new one, in Cherokee County, South Carolina. The process is a long one – Duke first asked regulators for the construction and operating license in 2007.
CEO Lynn Good says the approval could come this year. “We have had a commercial operating license under development since 2007, and we expect to hear from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission in 2016. And at that point, we’ll evaluate how and whether it makes sense to build nuclear - all kinds of considerations,” she said.
One of the biggest would be whether South Carolina regulators want to allow new nuclear plants. Timing is also a factor: It will depend on how quickly the demand for electricity grows.
Even if Duke begins construction right away, a new plant wouldn’t open for at least a decade.
Good’s comments came in an interview after her speech Thursday at the Charlotte World Affairs Council, at the Hilton in uptown Charlotte.
Duke currently operates six nuclear plants, all in the Carolinas, built in the 1970s and 1980s. Good said they’re a major reason the company now generates about 40 percent of its electricity from non-carbon sources - fuels other than coal, oil and gas. She says those plants also help keep energy bills in the Carolinas low, thanks to their reliability and low cost of nuclear fuel.
Duke also wants to build a second new nuclear plant, in Florida. A decision on that license also could come this year.
Duke Energy web page on plans for new nuclear plants, http://www.duke-energy.com/about-us/nuclear.asp
Sept. 5, 2014, WFAE.org, "Duke Projects Next 15 Years of Power"