Plant Spotlight: Catawba Nuclear Station


The Catawba Nuclear Station, which started operations in 1985, is located in York County, South Carolina, on Lake Wylie. Lake Wylie, a man-made lake in both South Carolina and North Carolina, is the oldest lake on the Catawba River. It was first formed when the Catawba Power Company built the Catawba Dam and power plant near India Hook, S.C., in 1904.

The lake provides cooling water for both Allen Steam Station and Catawba Nuclear Station. Catawba is located on the southwestern part of the lake. Catawba is jointly owned by several co-owners, with Duke Energy being the operator.

Catawba has two pressurized water reactors — unit 1 began commercial operation in 1985 followed by unit 2 in 1986 — the most common type of reactor in the U.S. Currently, there are 41 nuclear plants in the U.S. with pressurized water reactors.  

The two units at Catawba generate 2,310 megawatts of electricity— enough electricity to power approximately one million homes — making it one of the largest operating nuclear plants in Duke Energy's fleet.

The plant uses uranium to generate electricity. The uranium produces heat, which in turn produces steam that turns turbines that rotate generators. Most plants generate electricity this way, but differ in the fuel they use to create steam — oil, coal, natural gas or uranium.

Catawba Nuclear Station was designed and built with redundant safety systems and multiple barriers to protect the public, plant workers and the environment. Nuclear safety is the cornerstone of all operations at the plant — the number one priority is the health and safety of the public and employees. Catawba Nuclear Station has operated safely for more than 25 years.

Catawba employees interact with their pen pals from a local elementary. They wrote letters to each other several times throughout the school year.

Part of the plant's success can be attributed to its employees' relationship with the community. From working with local officials coordinating and practicing emergency response plans, to supporting several foundations, such as the United Way and Toys for Tots, to hosting Boy Scout Merit Badge Encampments and sponsoring a pen-pal program between Catawba employees and local 3rd graders, the employees at Catawba are an integral part of the local community.

Fast Facts

  • Cost to build plant: $3.6 billion

  • Station capacity: 2,310 megawatts

  • Number of units: 2

  • Commercial operation: unit 1 – 1985; unit 2 – 1986

  • Reactor type: pressurized water reactor (PWR)

  • Fuel: uranium dioxide

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