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Duke Cancels the Lee Nuclear Project, Files for 13.6% Rate Increase via Greentech Media

Duke Energy Carolinas announced today that it is abandoning plans to build the Lee Nuclear Station in light of the project’s principal designer and contractor declaring bankruptcy.

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Duke’s decision comes on the heels of SCANA Corp. and Santee Cooper abandoning construction on the $18 billion V.C. Summer expansion plan having already spent $9 billion on the project.

The Carolinas’ parent company, Duke Energy Corp., reportedly avoided answering questions raised about Lee following Westinghouse’s bankruptcy filing in March. The Lee site in Gaffney, S.C. was first selected for a nuclear project in 1970s, but it was abandoned a decade later following the nuclear meltdown at the Three Mile Island Nuclear Generating Station in Harrisburg, Pa. Duke Carolinas rebooted plans to build a $6 billion, two-reactor nuclear plant in 2005, but did not fully commit to building it as nuclear projects in neighboring utility territories experienced major delays and ballooning budgets.

In May, regulators asked Duke to update the expected cost of the Lee plant (which was pegged at $11 billion in 2008) and to clarify whether or not it plans to abandon the project. In order to shut down the Lee site, Duke needs commission approval.

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The recent bankruptcy of Westinghouse Electric Company, a subsidiary of Toshiba Corporation, is cited as a major factor. Westinghouse designed the AP1000 reactors that were to be used at the Lee site, as well the V.C. Summer and Vogtle nuclear plant expansions. Westinghouse was also the principal contractor on the three projects.

The Vogtle plant in Georgia is now the only remaining nuclear project under construction in the U.S. Earlier this month, Georgia Power announced that the first steam generator has been placed at the Vogtle nuclear expansion site. Regulators in the state insist that the Georgia project is different from the Summer plant in South Carolina, and say they want to see it get built. Georgia ratepayers have already invested $4.5 billion in the facility.

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