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Santee Cooper powering up

Santee Cooper, the state-owned utility based in Moncks Corner, unveiled a $2.5 billion plan Monday to build four new power plants, including two nuclear generators, by 2019 to meet surging demand from new residents and businesses.

Under a plan approved by the Santee Cooper board Monday, the utility would build a natural-gas powered turbine in Iva by 2011, a coal-burning plant in Florence or Jasper counties by 2014, a nuclear generating facility near Jenkinsville by 2016 and a second nuclear facility at the same site by 2019.

The new plants would boost Santee Cooper's generating capacity by 28 percent, producing 1,758 megawatts of electricity, enough to power almost 809,000 homes.

A development boom and a corresponding influx of new residents is quickly sucking up what little surplus electricity Santee Cooper has. Although the utility is scheduled to crank up new coal turbines next January and in 2009, the utility said it will soon have to buy power from other companies. It currently provides power to about 40 percent of the state, directly and through a network of cooperatives.

Santee Cooper Chief Executive Officer Lonnie Carter said building four new plants would be cheaper and more dependable than buying electricity on the open market.

"I promise you if we don't get some of this capacity put in pretty quick, (power) won't be reliable," Carter said. "We don't want to end up (with outages) like people in the Northeast... more [truncated due to possible copyright]  
Under a plan approved by the Santee Cooper board Monday, the utility would build a natural-gas powered turbine in Iva by 2011, a coal-burning plant in Florence or Jasper counties by 2014, a nuclear generating facility near Jenkinsville by 2016 and a second nuclear facility at the same site by 2019.

The new plants would boost Santee Cooper's generating capacity by 28 percent, producing 1,758 megawatts of electricity, enough to power almost 809,000 homes.

A development boom and a corresponding influx of new residents is quickly sucking up what little surplus electricity Santee Cooper has. Although the utility is scheduled to crank up new coal turbines next January and in 2009, the utility said it will soon have to buy power from other companies. It currently provides power to about 40 percent of the state, directly and through a network of cooperatives.

Santee Cooper Chief Executive Officer Lonnie Carter said building four new plants would be cheaper and more dependable than buying electricity on the open market.

"I promise you if we don't get some of this capacity put in pretty quick, (power) won't be reliable," Carter said. "We don't want to end up (with outages) like people in the Northeast and California. I suspect my tenure would be quite a bit shorter if that was the case."

The plan approved Monday calls for a small natural-gas-burning turbine to be built at Santee Cooper's Rainey generating station by 2011. The utility can obtain permits and build such a unit in two or three years. It will build a more complex $850 million to $900 million coal-burning plant at one of two undeveloped sites by 2014.

Santee Cooper also said it will continue to build green power plants, including solar and wind-driven facilities. However, most of its new electricity will come from two nuclear generators the utility hopes to complete in 2016 and 2019.

The units would be built near Jenkinsville at the V.C. Summer Nuclear Station, a 22-year-old plant Santee Cooper co-owns with Scana Corp. Scana, parent company of South Carolina Electric and Gas, would own and pay for 55 percent of the two new units and operate the entire facility.

Scana, which boosted its generating capacity 17 percent with a new plant in May 2004, does not need a sizable chunk of new electricity until 2015, according to spokesman Robin Montgomery.

The utilities already have started laying the groundwork for the nuclear units. However, environmental concerns and tightened federal regulations have almost entirely blocked nuclear plant construction since the early 1980s. But in recent years criticism ebbed and regulators started taking a more tolerant stance as energy prices surged and manufacturers developed safer machinery to handle radioactive material. In a sweeping energy bill signed into law in August, the Bush administration rolled out incentives for utilities that pursue nuclear power and established provisions protecting them from lawsuits.

Proponents of nuclear power in the United States often refer to countries such as France that get close to 80 percent of their electricity from nuclear plants. But many nations have been cautious with radioactive facilities. Germany announced a plan in 2000 to close all of its 19 nuclear power plants.

The U.S. government is working on a plan to store the radioactive waste that the country's 103 active nuclear reactors have produced for decades. Since 1983, American nuclear utilities have set aside about $26 billion to pay the government to pick up their spent nuclear fuel rods. But the government's plans to develop a storage site have been tied up in lawsuits.

Santee Cooper and Scana accepted a $9 million offer from the government in January to settle their lawsuit over the matter. In doing so, the utilities agreed to continue storing their nuclear waste at the Summer plant.


Source: http://www.charleston.net/s...

MAR 28 2006
http://www.windaction.org/posts/1926-santee-cooper-powering-up
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