Duke Energy to scrap Cherokee Co. nuclear project

CHEROKEE COUNTY, SC (WSPA) – Cherokee County leaders are looking ahead after Duke Energy canceled plans to build a nuclear reactor.

“It was disappointing but again, we weren’t surprised,” said Cherokee County Development Board Executive Director Jim Cook. “Duke Energy had a half built reactor in the early 80s and stopped construction on it then so it’s not the first time it happened here in Cherokee County.”

This time the announcement comes after nuclear reactor creator Westinghouse went bankrupt in March.

“It’s just not in the best interest of our company or our customers to move forward with a project of building new nuclear from scratch at this time,” said Duke Energy Spokesman Ryan Mosier.

The facility off McKowns Mountain Road was set to bring 900 jobs to the area.

Spartanburg Community College’s training program to help build that workforce is now under review and not accepting new students.

“With the recession of 2008, a lot of that went by the wayside and the longer it took for Duke to start building the plant I think the more we realized even then that it was going to be a while before it happened,” said Cook.

The abandonment of this project comes on the same day that Duke Energy asked North Carolina to approve a rate hike to recoup the $540 million they spent just to purchase and prep the site. Rosier says the costs could be passed on to South Carolina customers as well.

“I wasn’t very happy about it because obviously you can see we’re a small business just trying to get started. We’ve been open just open a month and basically everything we do requires electricity,” said Mandy Gates at Sweet Life Creamery. “That means it’s going to be a little bit of a struggle for me if my energy prices go up.”

While plans for the site have been canceled, Duke Energy is still holding on to the license to build a reactor.

“If the conditions are right, they’ll build a nuclear plant,” said Cook, “We hope they do some time.”

Cook says the county will continue working to grow its economy.

“We’ve been pushing hard on traditional economic development in the past few years and have had wonderful results,” said Cook.