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NRC issues licenses for Duke Energy nuclear reactors in South Carolina

Duke Energy Carolinas LLC received long-anticipated federal approval to build two nuclear reactors in South Carolina.

The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission on Dec. 21 said it issued two combined construction and operating licenses to the Duke Energy Corp. subsidiary for the 2,234-MW William States Lee III Nuclear Station in Cherokee County, S.C. The NRC licenses, which were issued Dec. 19 by the agency's Office of New Reactors, authorize Duke Energy Carolinas to build and operate two Westinghouse Electric Co. LLC-designed AP1000 nuclear reactors at the Lee site.

"We find, after weighing the environmental, economic, technical, and other benefits against environmental and other costs, and considering reasonable alternatives, that the combined licenses should be issued," the NRC wrote in its order.

Duke Energy Carolinas submitted the application for the reactors in December 2007, and the NRC certified the 1,100-MW AP1000 design in 2011.

The NRC staff completed its final safety evaluation report for the reactors late last summer and concluded that the project presents no significant safety issues. The NRC's Advisory Committee on Reactor Safeguards also independently reviewed the application's safety aspects and provided its results in late December 2015.

Duke Energy Carolinas has not yet made a final decision on whether to build the units, which could come online in November 2026 and May 2028, the company said in an integrated resource plan filed with the Public Service Commission of South Carolina. The company has estimated the cost of the plant at $11 billion.

"The decision to build the facility and expend the funds is a separate decision, but you've got to keep the option alive," Duke Energy Executive Vice President and CFO Steven Young said in a recent interview.