Progress Energy has been looking to buy a stake in two proposed nuclear reactors in South Carolina as the Raleigh-based power company considers options to finance nuclear expansion.
Progress CEO Bill Johnson told reporters at Bloomberg News yesterday that Progress has discussed buying a stake in two proposed reactors about 25 miles northwest of Columbia. The project is jointly owned by the Scana Corp. and Santee Cooper, the state-owned electric utility that has publicly said it's looking to sell off some of its share in the project.
Johnson made the comments in New York, where he spoke at a nuclear industry conference and made a series of media appearances.
Those discussions are consistent with Progress's approach to nuclear expansion based on joint financing or co-ownership. Progress spokesman Mike Hughes would not say if Progress is still interested in joint ownership of the $9.1 billion V.C. Summer nuclear project in South Carolina or if those talks have ended without resolution.
"We certainly have talked with all of our neighbors," Hughes said. "The concept of regional nuclear is a very important one."
Joint ownership is a necessity in an era of skyrocketing nuclear costs. Progress's twin reactor nuclear expansion in Florida is estimated to cost as much as $22.5 billion.
With the recession crimping the nation's appetite for energy, Progress last year scaled back its nuclear plans in terms of the power generation it would need to meet customer demand in North Carolina. That means Progress will likely invest in another utility's nuclear project or will include investors at its own Shearon Harris site in Wake County, where Progress has filed for federal licenses to add two reactors.
The V.C.Summer nuclear project expects to receive a federal license late this year or early next year.
Progress notified N.C. regulators last year it could own as little as 25 percent of the proposed Shearon Harris project. The company currently owns about 84 percent of the existing 25-year-old reactor at the Shearon Harris site and has co-investors for its twin reactors a the Brunswick plant near Southport as well as several co-burning units.
Another potential financing partner would be Charlotte-based Duke Energy. Last month Duke and Progress said they were merging to form the nation's biggest electric utility with 7.1 million customers.
After the merger, expected to be completed at the end of this year, Duke and Progress would continue operating separate regional utility subsidiaries with their own names and their own rates, but the two subsidiaries would jointly operate power plants and purchase equipment.