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Duke's Nuclear Intentions Questioned

Bloomberg – (and other news sources) - Add Duke Energy to the list of U.S. utility owners affected by the bankruptcy of nuclear contractor Westinghouse Electric.

The North Carolina Utilities Commission ordered Duke this week to report on the financial status of Westinghouse owner Toshiba and how it may affect the two Westinghouse AP1000 reactors the power supplier has proposed to install at the planned Lee nuclear station in Cherokee County, South Carolina.

Westinghouse’s bankruptcy in March has already thrown into question the fate of four U.S. nuclear reactors -- two being built by Southern Company in Georgia and another two by Scana in South Carolina. The companies and regulators in those states are now grappling with what to do with the projects, which were already delayed by years and billions of dollars over budget.

Among other things, North Carolina regulators ordered Duke on Monday to say whether it could use a different technology to build its reactors at Lee; whether the company had suspended investment in the project until the “Toshiba-Westinghouse situation is resolved”; and whether it would seek a return on “abandoned costs” outside of a general rate case should the project be canceled.

Charlotte-based Duke, which has 60 days to respond, will provide the information requested, spokeswoman Rita Sipe said Wednesday by email.

Duke shares fell 0.6 percent to $82.61 at 10:52 a.m. in New York.

Duke announced plans to build the two units more than a decade ago at a cost of $11 billion, according to a report in the Charlotte Observer newspaper.

According to its report, "Duke first estimated a 2016 operating date for Lee when it proposed the plant a decade ago, but has steadily pushed that date forward. In a July filing, the company said it has spent nearly $495 million in preconstruction costs since 2011. Duke’s decision on whether to build Lee comes as growth in demand for electricity has stagnated... In a planning document filed with state regulators in September, Duke said new nuclear capacity could be needed as early as the mid-2020s."

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