Thirty years after it last broke ground on a nuclear power plant, Duke Energy has a site picked out for a new one, 50 miles southwest of Charlotte near Gaffney, S.C.
It also has a name, William States Lee III, to honor a late CEO, and federal support for a nuclear revival.
What Duke might lack is a convincing argument that the plant would be worth risking billions of dollars. Construction costs are soaring and Wall Street investors are nervous. Demand for electricity is flattening, calls for renewable energy growing.
Duke's 2.4 million Carolinas customers will pay, through higher rates, for what the company builds. Duke serves the western half of North Carolina and northwestern South Carolina.
Under state law, utilities may recover their costs even if they abandon construction projects.
In June, Duke asked regulators to approve a 13.5 percent rate increase for N.C. residential customers, in part to pay for a $2.4 billion expansion of its Cliffside coal-fired power plant in Rutherford County. Two smaller expansions, at its Buck and Dan River plants, are expected to be completed within three years.
Like other U.S. utilities, Duke also remembers how its last nuclear-building spree ended