Fast moves in South Carolina

02 April 2008

Plans for two new reactors in South Carolina have come along swiftly with a contract for large components as well as applications for local authority permission and a construction and operating licence (COL).


South Carolina Electric & Gas Company (SCE&G) led the developments, which should result in two Westinghouse AP1000 pressurized water reactors at the VC Summer site in Jenkinsville. The first could operate in 2016 according to Kevin Marsh, president of SCG&E.


On 28 March, SCE&G, along with partner Santee Cooper (a state-owned electric and water utility), applied to the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) for a combined construction and operating licence for two AP1000s. This move was followed yesterday by an application for approval from the South Carolina Public Service Commission and a simultaneous contract for large components for the potential reactor units.


AP1000 designer Westinghouse and its partner Shaw will go ahead with the procurement of unspecified long lead-time components for an unspecified fee.


Nuclear power plants require a large pressure vessel, coolant water pipes and pump casings. All these have important safety roles and can only be made by a specialised manufacturer from very large, high-quality forgings of nuclear-grade steel alloys. The parts - which could always be used in other AP1000s should SCG&E and Santee Cooper decide not to build - would likely be ordered from a vendor such as Japan Steel Works, although other firms are preparing to tackle similar contracts. Currently, the waiting time for such components is about eight years.


Both SCG&E and Santee Cooper estimate they will need additional power generation capacity around 2016. Marsh said: "We're confident that new nuclear is the right decision for South Carolina." Lonnie Carter, president and CEO of Santee Cooper, added that the moves "represent ongoing plans to keep nuclear power as an option."


South Carolina Public Service Commission approval is required by the utilities before they could build the plant, as is the COL from the NRC. Reviewing the COL application is expected to take the NRC about 36 months, while local approval should come much sooner as the public service commission is currently evaluating options for power generation in the next decade.