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NRC Poised to Award Scana Licenses for Two Reactors on March 30

The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission is poised to award Scana Corp. a license to build two reactors in South Carolina, the second such action after a three-decade drought.

The NRC will vote March 30 on the Cayce, South Carolina-based company’s proposal to build two units at its existing Virgil C. Summer plant, about 26 miles (42 kilometers) northwest of Columbia, the agency said today on its website.

The NRC’s scheduling of a vote is a signal that the commission is ready to approve the license. Scana submitted its application to the NRC in March 2008, according to the agency. The company will pay 55 percent of the estimated $10.2 billion cost with Santee Cooper, a South Carolina-owned utility, also a partner.

Scana officials didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

The company will be the second power generator since 1978 to receive an NRC permit to build reactors if the five-member commission votes in favor of the company’s plan. The panel on Feb. 9 voted 4-1 to give Southern Co. of Atlanta a license to build and operate two units at its Vogtle plant near Augusta, Georgia. Chairman Gregory Jaczko dissented.

Scana and Southern plan to construct Toshiba Corp.-designed units, with the first reactors for both companies in operation by 2016. Southern’s second unit may be in service by 2017, with Scana’s following by 2019.

Nuclear, Gas

The reactors may be among the last built in the U.S. this decade, as a glut of cheap natural gas has discouraged companies from investing in nuclear energy and other forms of generation. A 1979 partial meltdown at the Three Mile Island plant near Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, slowed the development of U.S. nuclear power, which accounts for about 20 percent of the country’s electricity.

The NRC is also weighing rules to improve the safety of 104 U.S. operating reactors after a triple meltdown at Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima Dai-Ichi plant in Japan in March 2011. The agency on March 9 approved its first orders in response to the disaster, including a requirement for reactor owners to have adequate emergency equipment in place by 2016 to survive a loss of power.

Jaczko opposed approval of Southern’s reactor license because the commission didn’t require the company to adhere to still-evolving rules from the Fukushima crisis. He has not indicated how he may vote on Scana’s application.

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