Proposed nuclear reactors would bring energy, cost and controversy

Published: Jul. 29, 2008 at 11:06 PM EDT|Updated: Aug. 4, 2008 at 1:27 AM EDT
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JENKINSVILLE, SC (WIS) - South Carolina needs safe, reliable and environmentally friendly energy.
The state's biggest public and private utilities say nuclear is the way to go.
But it will cost us, and sooner than we might think.

Two nuclear generating units built and operated by two of the state's major utilities, SCE&G and Santee Cooper, could be a big part of South Carolina's energy future.

The units would be located in Jenkinsville, already home to the VC Summer Nuclear Plant.

If both go online, the new nukes could turn out enough electricity to provide power to 1.8 million customers.

"We looked at coal-fired generation, we looked at natural-gas fired generation. Nuclear. We looked at renewables. And at the end of the day, every time we went through that process of evaluating, nuclear came out on top," says Eric Boomhower of SCE&G.

Nuclear power, though controversial and costly, is undeniably efficient. A small fuel pellet provides the energy equivalent of nearly a ton of coal.

Boomhower says nuclear is also a clean, practical and increasingly popular alternative to fossil fuels.

"I think what has grown is public support for nuclear. You know, it's a different world that we live in today than it was 25-30 years ago. The importance of generation that is clean, you know, not emitting greenhouse gases, is more important than ever. And nuclear has really come to the forefront in terms of what solutions do we have available to us," says Boomhower.

But with a total project cost of nearly $10 billion, ratepayers will be asked to chip in.
SCE&G is asking for a rate increase of about .5 percent for the average residential customer starting next march.

The first of the two units is not scheduled to begin operation until 2016.

And you would continue to pay during what will be a long review process.
First, the state public service commission will be holding a public hearing in late October that could last five days.
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission would then spend three to four years examining the plan.
If approved, construction would take five or six years. The total cost to SCE&G alone would be more than six billion dollars.

Reported by Jack Kuenzie

Posted by Logan Smith