Four new nuclear reactors — after a nuclear-plant hiatus of some 20 years — are at least on the drawing boards of Duke Power and Progress Energy for locations in North and South Carolina, as outlined in an overview article in the Independent Weekly of Durham.
Progress Energy, which serves the Asheville area, has applied to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to add two reactors to its Shearon Harris plant near Raleigh, at an estimated cost of $14 billion. And Duke Energy, based in the Charlotte area, has applied for two reactors to be built in Gaffney, S.C., 88 miles southeast of Asheville, at an estimated cost of $11 billion.
Statements from both power companies acknowledge high capital costs for nuclear facilities to be offset by lower operating and fuel costs. “Nuclear power plants cost more upfront than some other forms of generation, but they provide a reliable, carbon-free resource that generates electricity for 40 to 60 years,” according to Progress Energy spokesman Mike Hughes. The Independent, however, points out that a comparison to fuel costs for coal, wood and natural gas is not a comparison to “renewable energy sources.”
The article discusses North Carolina’s Construction Work in Progress guidelines, which became law in 2007, and which would pass “the bulk of the costs” for the new plants on to consumers, whether or not the plans are completed. Neither of the companies’ proposed projects, according to the Independent, would go online before 2018.
In a companion article, the Independent discusses nuclear safety issues from the perspective of Three Mile Island revelations — referring to the U.S. nuclear industry’s worst disaster 30 years ago.
— Nelda Holder, associate editor