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Nuclear Energy Insight

Spring 2012—The independent U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission has issued a license to South Carolina Electric & Gas to build a two-reactor expansion of its V.C. Summer site.

Insight Spring 2012 SummerSCE&G and its project partner, the state-owned electric utility Santee Cooper, will construct two Westinghouse AP1000 reactors at the site 20 miles northwest of Columbia, S.C.

“Receiving approval of our licenses … is a significant event for our company and marks the culmination of an intense review by the NRC,” said Kevin Marsh, chairman and CEO of SCANA, which owns SCE&G. “We look forward to building these two new nuclear units to enhance our ability to meet the energy needs of our customers.”

SCE&G is the second company in 2012 to receive a license to build new reactors, following Georgia Power’s approval for two reactors at the Vogtle site near Augusta.

SCE&G applied for the license in 2008. After considerable study and investigation, the NRC gave the go-ahead under its new combined construction and operating licensing regulations. Previously, nuclear energy facilities were licensed in a two-step process that required separate construction permits and operating licenses.

Lonnie Carter, president and CEO of Santee Cooper, said that the new reactors will have a far-reaching impact on the South Carolina economy.

“These new nuclear units are a critical component of Santee Cooper’s long-term plan to diversify our generation mix,” said Carter. “Access to reliable and low-cost electricity will be a key to job creation and economic development opportunities as we continue rebuilding our state’s economy and position South Carolina for the future.”

New reactor projects don’t just produce power—they also create jobs. About 1,000 workers are engaged in early construction work at the Summer site. The project will peak at about 3,000 construction craft workers over the course of three to four years. The two new reactors and one existing reactor will provide power to 2.2 million customers and will add up to 800 permanent jobs. The first reactor will go on line in 2017 and the second in 2018.

Rep. Jeff Duncan (R-S.C.) recognized the project’s economic implications. “Investing in nuclear energy will allow South Carolina’s power grid to expand and attract new business ventures in the state,” he said. “More nuclear power in the state means that businesses can grow and focus on putting South Carolinians back to work.”

NEI President and CEO Marvin Fertel set the commission’s approval of the South Carolina reactors within a larger context.

“Coupled with the NRC’s recently approved expansion of the Vogtle facility in Georgia and the Tennessee Valley Authority’s ongoing completion of Watts Bar 2 in Tennessee, there will be an additional 5,600 megawatts of nuclear generating capacity on the Southeast’s electricity grid by the end of the decade. That is reliable, low-carbon electricity for about 10 cities the size of Columbia, S.C.,” Fertel said.

The NRC approved the AP1000 reactor design in December, which was completed in a shared Energy Department and industry research and development program. The Energy Department has launched a similar cost-shared program to develop small-scale reactors for producing electricity and other uses.

Aside from U.S. projects, global development of nuclear energy will provide
a significant economic boost to some 300 suppliers in 20 states. Westinghouse already has created 5,000 jobs in the United States to support construction of four reactors in China. The work for China is providing guidance for the reactors in South Carolina and Georgia. About 35,000 U.S. jobs will support the projects in the two states, according to an analysis by Westinghouse and the Shaw Group.

Read more articles in Nuclear Energy Insight and Insight Web Extra.