- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 16, 2006

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Duke Power Co. and Southern Co. have tentatively selected a site in South Carolina for a nuclear power plant, which would be one of the first ordered in the United States in more than 30 years, the companies said yesterday.

Duke Power, the electric utility subsidiary of Charlotte-based Duke Energy Corp., would be the developer and licensed operator of the plant co-owned by the Atlanta-based Southern Co., both companies announced in prepared statements.

Duke Power chief nuclear officer Brew Barron estimated the cost of building the new plant to be between $4 billion and $6 billion. The plant would create as many as 1,000 jobs during construction, he said, and up to 800 full-time jobs after the plant is operating.

The utilities expect to file an application to build the plant with the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission in late 2007 or early 2008, Duke Power said. The companies will decide later whether to actually proceed with plant construction in Cherokee County, S.C.

The site is the same one where Duke Power started constructing a nuclear plant in the 1970s, Mr. Barron said. The project was abandoned in the 1980s when load projections were lowered, he said.

“This site was a very good one at that time, so it’s not surprising the Cherokee site came up again at the top of the list,” he said on a conference call. “We saw it as being a win-win.”

Cherokee County last year approved an incentive package that offered a 50 percent break on property taxes if the nuclear plant was located there. The site is in the Cherokee Falls community near Gaffney, S.C.

South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford welcomed the announcement and the potential for new jobs.

“In the competition for global investment, this announcement could potentially be an enormous win for South Carolina in terms of not only direct jobs, but our power-generating capacity for further job-creating efforts going forward,” Mr. Sanford said in a statement.

Shares of Duke rose 16 cents, to close at $29.37 on the New York Stock Exchange, and Southern Co. shares rose 10 cents, to $33.83.

In January, Raleigh-based Progress Energy said it will consider building a nuclear reactor at the Shearon Harris plant about 25 miles southwest of Raleigh. Progress Energy operates four nuclear reactors in the Carolinas.

“Southern Company is a well respected nuclear operator and we are pleased to have the opportunity to share the nuclear expertise of both our companies on this project,” Ruth Shaw, president and chief executive officer of Duke Power, said in a statement.

Barnie Beasley, chief executive of Southern Nuclear, a unit of Southern Co., called the announcement “another step Southern Company is taking to explore economical and reliable generating options and to preserve the nuclear power option for meeting future energy needs.”

“This joint project between Southern Company and Duke Power is a good fit,” he said in a statement. “Duke Power’s business model is compatible with Southern Co.’s, and Duke Power is well respected in the nuclear industry for its nuclear expertise and strong operating experience.”

Duke has said previously a new nuclear plant will feature two Westinghouse Advanced Passive 1000 reactors. Each reactor is capable of producing about 1,117 megawatts, Duke Power said.

Duke Power also said it was considering making early site-permit applications for two other potential nuclear plants, including one in North Carolina. That one would be in Davie County, about 50 miles northeast of Charlotte. Another South Carolina site under consideration for the early site-permit application is adjacent to the utility’s nuclear plant in Oconee, S.C., Duke Power said.

The industry has been ramping up its nuclear program since President Bush signed an energy bill last year that enhances incentives for building nuclear reactors.

Duke, which serves more than 2 million customers in North Carolina and South Carolina, operates three nuclear generating stations in the Carolinas.

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