Reducing carbon dependence with nuclear energy

No single energy source can meet all of our electricity needs. Despite the significant contributions from shale gas and renewable resources, nuclear power remains a key strategic energy source for the future to reduce carbon dependence and environmental impact. Nuclear energy continues to gain support in the global energy market and must be considered an essential part of our future energy mix.

During a speech at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz said that President Obama “sees nuclear energy as a part of his carbon-free portfolio.” In addition, the administration wants to fight climate change by encouraging development of an array of energy sources that have lower carbon emissions.

Nuclear energy also helps address issues of air quality and greenhouse gases. It gives us clean, reliable, affordable power for the future.

Duke Energy operates six nuclear power plants with 11 operating reactors throughout the Carolinas. Due to the benefits of nuclear energy and the importance it will play in meeting future energy needs, the company has efforts under way to expand its nuclear generation fleet in the future if needed.

Duke Energy expects to receive a combined construction and operating license (COL) for its Lee Nuclear Station located in Gaffney, S.C. in mid-2016. The proposed Lee Nuclear Station met an important milestone on Dec. 23 when the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) issued the report of no environmental impacts that would stop issuing of the COL. On Jan. 2, the South Carolina Department of Health & Environmental Control issued an approved Water Qualification Certification (401) for the project. The NRC report of environmental clearance and 401 permit completes the environmental reviews required to obtain the COL.

“The energy needs of our customers are significant over the next 15 years,” said Clark Gillespy, Duke Energy South Carolina state president. “Our commitment is to meet our customers’ needs in a way that balances affordable, reliable and increasingly clean electricity, and this project will help us satisfy that need.”

Although the company submitted COLs for a site in Levy County, Florida and to add two new units at its Harris Nuclear Plant in New Hill, N.C., plans for those locations have recently changed. In January 2014, Duke Energy ended its engineering, construction and procurement agreement for the Levy County site, but continues to pursue the COL as it remains a viable option for future generation. In addition, the company requested the NRC suspend its license application for the new units at Harris; however, the site has not been eliminated for future consideration.

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In addition to Duke Energy’s efforts to pursue new nuclear generation, energy companies across the country are currently building new power plants. Georgia Power, a Southern Company, is building two additional nuclear units at Plant Vogtle and are expected to be in service in 2017. South Carolina Electric and Gas Company (SCE&G), principal subsidiary of SCANA Corporation, is also building two new reactors under construction at the Virgil C. Summer Nuclear Station and are expected to be operational by 2018.

As America’s need for energy grows, energy companies are working to determine the most efficient and environmentally sound way to meet the increasing demand for electricity. With growing concerns about air quality, nuclear energy continues to be an important energy source because it emits no greenhouse gases, provides clean and reliable electricity, and is among the lowest-cost providers of baseload electricity.

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Duke Energy engineers reach out to youth during EWeek

Did you hug an engineer last week?

Duke Energy’s nuclear fleet celebrated National Engineers Week (EWeek) during the third week of February this year.

Oconee Nuclear Station's Jessi Link, a systems mechanical engineer and NAYGN member, spoke to 75 students from Anderson County during EWeek 2014.

Oconee Nuclear Station’s Jessi Link, a systems mechanical engineer and NAYGN member, speaks to 75 students from Anderson County during EWeek 2014.

Our goal at Duke Energy is to get the nation’s youth talking about engineering, science and math. We strive to connect students with Duke Energy employees to learn about real-life career options in these fields, as well as career options within the nuclear industry.

During EWeek and throughout the month of February, employees volunteered to reach out to local students to talk with them on a personal level about engineering at their respective work sites and the educational paths they took to get them where they are today.

Oconee Nuclear Station’s education center, the World of Energy, paired up with its site’s North American Young Generation in Nuclear Chapter (NAYGN) engineers, who visited engineering design classes at local career centers and science classes in Oconee, Pickens and Anderson counties. Altogether, Oconee’s NAYGN volunteers reached out to nearly 250 students.

Brad Medlin, a 3D modeler and metrologist and NAYGN officer at Oconee, gave an EWeek presentation to engineering students at Hamilton Career Center in Oconee County.

Brad Medlin, a 3D modeler and metrologist and NAYGN officer at Oconee, gave an EWeek presentation to engineering students at Hamilton Career Center in Oconee County.

Not only did they discuss education options with high school students interested in pursuing higher-level education, but they also introduced them to basic nuclear power, interacted with students using fun and engaging activities (like the “hair-raising” Van der Graaf generator!) and answered any questions they had about the nuclear industry.

Are you interested in having someone speak to your group about engineering or the nuclear industry? While EWeek 2014 has come and gone, Duke Energy’s nuclear fleet is committed to spreading the word about engineering and the nuclear industry throughout the year. Our nuclear plants include McGuire Nuclear Station, Harris Nuclear Station, Brunswick Nuclear Station, Oconee, Catawba Nuclear Station, Robinson Nuclear Station and Crystal River Nuclear Station – reach out to their local communications contacts today to schedule a presentation.

Click here to learn more about EWeek.

Nuclear Meets the Demands of the Polar Vortex

The frigid impact of the “polar vortex” affected most of the U.S.
Credit: AccuWeather.com

Last week, as the arctic air of the “polar vortex” made its way across the country, temperatures reached record lows and energy demand reached record highs. Thanks to its diverse energy mix of coal, gas, nuclear and renewables, Duke Energy was prepared to meet its customers’ increased energy needs across the six states it serves.

As a safe, reliable and cost-effective option, nuclear plays a key role in meeting Duke Energy’s energy needs – regardless of the weather condition. Since nuclear power plants are designed to withstand extreme conditions, like severe temperatures, Duke Energy’s nuclear fleet was able to operate as expected, providing generating stability during this icy event.

Duke Energy’s 10.5 GW regulated nuclear generation fleet, which includes 11 units at six sites in the Carolinas, helped meet Duke Energy Carolinas’ new winter usage peak of 20,246 megawatt-hours set Tuesday, Jan. 7 in the hour ending at 8 a.m. This exceeded the previous winter record of 18,985 megawatt-hours set on Dec. 15, 2010.

To read more on how nuclear power plants withstood the widespread chill, please refer to the following articles: