Duke Energy announced Friday plans to abandon construction of a nuclear station near Gaffney, S.C., and that it wants customers to pay about $636 million for the scrapped project.
Charlotte-based Duke requested Friday that state regulators allow cancellation of the Lee nuclear station, citing in part this year’s bankruptcy filing by nuclear-reactor supplier Westinghouse, the primary contractor on the project. In its request to the North Carolina Utilities Commission, Duke said the risks and uncertainties of starting construction on the project “have become too great” and that cancellation “is the best option for customers.”
The request was submitted as part of a filing by Duke to raise base rates as early as April 1 for electricity customers in a territory that includes Charlotte. Duke is seeking an average increase of 13.6 percent across various classes of customers, with residential rates projected to increase 16.7 percent.
The higher rates will cover a variety of Duke expenses, including investments to modernize power plants and costs to clean up coal ash sites, by generating an additional $647 million in annual revenue for the company, Duke said.
Of that figure, the higher rates paid by customers will provide $53 million a year, over 12 years, to cover costs for the abandoned nuclear station, according to Friday’s filing.
Duke noted in the filing that it is committed to clean power and nuclear energy and that it will maintain its license to build a new nuclear project at the South Carolina site in the future “if it is in the best interest of customers.”
The utilities commission must approve Friday’s hike request, a process that could take months.