Permitting Nuclear Energy

Published Nov. 13, 2012
The Charleston District is working on permits for two nuclear power plants in South Carolina.

The Charleston District is working on permits for two nuclear power plants in South Carolina.

By Richard Darden, PhD, biologist

South Carolina’s population is growing and faces increasing energy demands and so are the utility companies that supply cost-effective power to residential and business consumers. To meet growing demands, utility companies have proposed expansion and new construction of nuclear powered electrical generating stations at two locations.

South Carolina Electric and Gas (SCE&G) and Santee Cooper have partnered to expand the V.C. Summer Nuclear Station in Fairfield County and Duke Energy has proposed to construct the new William States Lee III Nuclear Station (Lee Nuclear Station) in Cherokee County. Each utility project must first obtain a license from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC). In addition, unavoidable construction impacts to waters of the United States must receive a Department of the Army permit from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. To promote streamlined environmental reviews, the Charleston District and NRC have partnered to prepare environmental impact statement (EIS) documents for both projects in compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), a law that requires federal agencies to identify the potential environmental effects of a project and to disclose those effects to the public.

The V.C. Summer Nuclear Station project involves the construction of two new nuclear reactors on the site where a single existing reactor has been operating for the past 25 years. The site sits adjacent to the Parr and Monticello Reservoirs, where the two new reactors will have ample water supply for cooling. The nuclear station employs approximately 1,300 construction workers and plans to employ up to 3,000 people by 2015. Following completion of the Final EIS on April 16, 2011, the Charleston District issued a permit for the project on March 30, 2012, which included the nuclear station site and 396 miles of transmission lines.

The Duke Energy-proposed Lee Nuclear Station includes construction of two new nuclear reactors at a site on the Broad River in Cherokee County. A Draft EIS for this project was made available for public comment in December 2011 with a Final EIS expected in mid-2013. The proposed project will include two Westinghouse AP 1000 nuclear reactors and associated cooling towers, a 14-mile railroad spur, and 14 miles of power lines. In addition, Duke Energy proposes to impound London Creek, a tributary to the Broad River, to create a 640-acre emergency water supply reservoir to augment water during times of drought and extreme low flow. Creation of the reservoir will flood approximately 67,000 linear feet of the London Creek ecosystem. To offset the environmental impacts of the reservoir, Duke Energy has proposed stream restoration work in two other tracts of land within the same watershed.

Nuclear power plants provide approximately six percent of the world’s overall energy and 13 percent of the world’s electricity. Consistent with the Energy Policy Act of 2005, the District understands the importance of nuclear power in the world and the nation, and also realizes that projects of this scale involve important environmental and safety concerns that must be addressed. For these and all projects, the District’s Regulatory division strives to protect the nation’s aquatic resources while allowing reasonable development through fair, flexible and balanced permit decisions.