South Carolina officials, Duke Energy look to nuclear power to meet growing demand

Fox Carolina Investigates: Push for nuclear power
Published: Sep. 18, 2023 at 6:24 PM EDT
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GREENVILLE, S.C. (FOX Carolina) - This week leaders from 16 southern states are meeting in Greenville to discuss the best way to power one of the fastest growing regions in the country.

The conference comes just a few weeks after a state report revealed multiple errors and equipment failures that led Duke Energy to start rolling outages on Christmas Eve 2022, which left some South Carolinians in the dark without heat for more than 10 hours.

We asked Governor Henry McMaster if Duke Energy was doing enough to keep the outages from happening again this winter.

“I’m sure they’re doing all they can,” McMaster said.

Just last week, representatives from Duke Energy met with the state’s Public Service Commission to discuss the increasing demand for power and how they plan to meet it.

A representative told the commission last year’s outages are a “poignant reminder” of what they need to prepare for.

We spoke with Congressman Jeff Duncan, who represents the Upstate in Washington D.C. and serves on an energy subcommittee.

“We shouldn’t have [outages] in America. We have the ability to generate electricity to be used 24/7, 365, every day, all year,” Duncan said. “I would love to see what the future looks like in nuclear power with small modular reactors.”

Also called SMRs, smaller modular reactors are smaller, simpler versions of traditional nuclear reactors, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.

Experts say SMRs take less time and money to build. Their size allows them to be built in more locations than larger reactors, but they can still be ran around the clock.

“In theory, at least, you would think blackouts would lessen because they’re always running and they’re always producing electrons,” said Dan Brouillette, the 15th Secretary of the U.S. Department of Energy, who also attended the conference.

Duke is already submitting the paperwork to build an SMR in North Carolina, but according to planning documents it wouldn’t be ready for another decade if approved.

McMaster said the state has asked Duke and the other power companies to keep the outages from happening again.

Duke is currently working through a corrective plan put together by the state, but the plan is confidential so it’s unknown what’s on it or what the company has done.

Duke has said there are 101 action items on it and they’ve completed 76.