Duke Energy kills nuke project, citing Plant Vogtle contractor’s bankruptcy

3:10 p.m Monday, Aug. 28, 2017 Business
Georgia Power’s Plant Vogtle nuclear expansion under construction. (AP Photo/John Bazemore, File)

Duke Energy Corp. said it wants to cancel a planned nuclear plant in South Carolina, citing the bankruptcy of a key contractor whose troubles also have affected Georgia’s Plant Vogtle project.

In filings to the North Carolina Utilities Commission, the Charlotte-based utility requested approval to cancel the project. Duke Energy also asked for a rate hike to recover $368 million spent on planning and early construction work, according to the Charlotte Business Journal.

“Risks and uncertainties to initiating construction on the Lee Nuclear project have become too great and cancellation of the project is the best option for customers,” Duke said in a statement.

The utility said it cannot cancel the project without the agency’s approval.

Duke’s move follows the decision late last month by two utilities, SCANA Corp. and Santee Cooper, to pull the plug on a South Carolina nuclear project because of rising costs and the bankruptcy of Westinghouse Electric, the supplier of the nuclear reactors.

Meanwhile, by Thursday, Georgia Power and its parent firm, Atlanta-based Southern Company, are expected to turn in their cost analysis and recommendation to state regulators on whether to complete the much-delayed, over-budget Plant Vogtle project to build two new reactors near Augusta.

All three projects were to use Westinghouse’s AP-1000 reactors. Southern Co. once planned to be a minority partner in Duke’s nuclear plant as well, but the Atlanta company eventually pulled out.

Duke got approval for its project more than a decade ago but has not progressed as far — or spent as much — on the plan to build the nuclear plant near Gaffney, S.C.

The company had planned to use the plant to supply power to customers in both North and South Carolina.

SCANA and Santee Cooper have spent about $9 billion on their expansion of the V.C. Summer plant.

The Plant Vogtle project was already over three years behind schedule and more than $3 billion over budget when Westinghouse filed bankruptcy in late March.

Southern recently disclosed preliminary estimates indicating that disruptions from the bankruptcy will add billions of dollars and years of delays. The tab is now expected to go above $25 billion.

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