Nuclear Power Plants in South Carolina Suspended
Two of South Carolina's utilities have suspended construction of new nuclear power plants. While a decade ago, industry officials predicted a renaissance for nuclear power in the state, the recent cancellation of the project in Charleston has put that dream on hold. The utilities opted for an advanced reactor design by the Westinghouse Electric Company, the AP1000, reportedly with greater safety features than previous models. They planned to construct two reactors next to the existing nuclear unit.
Oconee's operating licenses are slated to expire in the early 2030s
The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) announced in January that Duke Energy plans to seek subsequent operating license renewals for 11 of its nuclear reactors. The operating licenses of Duke's reactors are valid for 20 years. The Oconee plant operates three generating units that produce more than 2,500 megawatts of carbon-free electricity.
The Oconee nuclear plant began commercial operation July 16, 1973, making it the 18th U.S. nuclear plant to go into commercial operation. The Oconee complex currently has a total capacity of 4,471 MW and is part of Duke Energy's generating portfolio. Both units are due to expire in the early 2030s. However, Duke Energy is preparing to renew all of its operating licenses for both units.
Catawba's operating licenses are slated to expire in the early 2030s
The three reactors in the Catawba River subbasin are all in the state. Brunswick-1 and -2 are located in Southport, N.C., Catawba-1 and -2 are located in York, S.C., Robinson is located in Hartsville, S.C., and McGuire-1 and -2 are located in New Hill, N.C. Among them, Robinson is the oldest of the fleet. If its operating licenses are extended, it will remain in service until 2050. Harris is the latest reactor to begin commercial operation, and could operate into the early 2030s.
Dominion Energy's Catawba nuclear plant
Dominion Energy's controversial nuclear plant project in South Carolina was scrapped in February because of mismanagement and cost miscalculations. This sparked shockwaves throughout the industry, including the Japanese tech giant Toshiba. In late October, the state's electric ratepayers were surveyed and only 48 percent knew about the plant's demise. Meanwhile, documents released as the project unraveled showed the utility knew about the project's problems, but they failed to act.
The plant uses two pressurized water reactors. Each pressurised water reactor is made up of a fuel core containing 193 fuel assemblies. Each fuel rod contains 272 Uranium pellets that are less than one inch long. The entire reactor core is contained within a 14ft-diameter, 44-foot-long containment building with three-foot-thick concrete walls and 0.75-inch steel lining.
The plant was supposed to cost $9 billion, but ultimately never produced a single watt of energy. It cost taxpayers in South Carolina an estimated $9 billion and South Carolina taxpayers are paying the price. Besides the lack of energy, the reactors also had poor oversight and corporate mismanagement. These two issues led to the failure of the plant project. As a result, the taxpayers are now paying for a failed nuclear reactor program.
The Catawba nuclear power station is located near Lake Wylie in York County, South Carolina. The reactor unit has been operating at a load factor of 86% since 1985. As of May 2016, the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission approved the increase in capacity of the Catawba nuclear power station. The reactor's expected lifetime is 2043. In 1984, Duke Energy Corporation began construction of the plant. It is currently owned by three municipalities and operated by Duke Energy.
Another example of a nuclear plant that operates in South Carolina is Dominion Energy's Catawbia nuclear plant. Besides the plant, the company also owns the Cooper Nuclear Station, a nuclear power plant in Nebraska. Other nuclear plants include the South Texas Project, Units 1 and 2, and the North Anna Nuclear Generating Station. Finally, the Donald C. Summer Nuclear Station is owned by Dominion Energy South Carolina, Inc.
While it has long been a source of controversy, the recent Lake Wylie Pilot Study has promised to protect local citizens and the environment. It is hoped that other nuclear power plants in South Carolina and North Carolina will follow suit and stop this project. The new regulations will help protect local citizens and reduce carbon emissions. If the process goes through, the Catawba nuclear power plant could remain in operation until 2041-2046.
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