Duke reconsidering site for nuclear plant

 

5-15-05

 

Posted 4:19 p.m.

WINSTON-SALEM (AP) Duke Power Co. officials are taking a new look at a site they proposed for a nuclear plant more than 30 years ago in Davie County along the Yadkin River.

Officials with the Charlotte-based company say they need to expand capacity because they are adding as many as 60,000 customers a year in their service area in the Carolinas.

"We're looking at every site in our territory," said Tom Williams, a Duke Power spokesman. "Sites we own and sites we don't own."

Nuclear power is just one of the options that company officials are exploring, and Duke owns 1,836 acres in the area about eight miles southeast of Mocksville. But its consideration highlights the change in the U.S. electricity industry, which for years has relied on natural gas to fuel new power plants.

Declining domestic supplies and sharply rising costs of natural gas have led utilities to take a new look at coal and other fuels. In March, Duke Power officials met with staff of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to discuss issues involved in applying for a federal license to build and run a nuclear-power plant.

Building a new nuclear plant would take about 10 years. The company expects to decide by the end of the year whether it will proceed, and if so, where.

Williams stressed that the company has not made a decision.

"Not by any means. This is far from being a given," Williams said. "We don't want to get people there spun up. But clearly, it's property we own and could be a potential site."

Duke Power, environmentalists and the state and federal governments began wrangling over the Perkins site in 1973, when the utility announced plans to build three nuclear reactors there along the Yadkin River.

Despite having the needed permits, the company backed off the plan in the early 1980s in the wake of the near-disaster at Three Mile Island, dropping energy demand and state concerns over the amount of water the plant would take from the river.

Duke Power is also planning to expand capacity at plants using conventional fuels. On Wednesday, the company said it had filed a $2.35 billion proposal with the N.C. Utilities Commission to build new power generators at plants near Salisbury and Shelby.