Duke Energy is continuing with its plans to build a new nuclear power plant in Cherokee County that could begin operating between 2018 and 2021, said Duke spokeswoman Rita Sipe.
The other plan, to expand an existing Fairfield County nuclear site, is a project by Santee Cooper and South Carolina Electric and Gas. Santee Cooper spokeswoman Mollie Gore said the utility expects the first new reactor to be operational by 2016 and a second reactor online by 2019.
The Fairfield project has started preliminary construction, she said.
Sipe said the Nuclear Regulatory Commission is reviewing thousands of pages of required studies and Duke Energy expects to receive approval to begin construction around 2012.
South Carolina gets more than half of its electricity from nuclear power and only two states use a greater percentage of nuclear energy for its electric mix.
In South Carolina there are four nuclear sites with a total of seven reactors. The nuclear sites are in Oconee, Fairfield, York and Darlington counties. North Carolina has three reactor sites and Georgia has two.
The Cherokee plant would be Duke EnergyÂ’s first new nuclear reactor since 1985.
The original plans for reactors in Cherokee were scrapped in 1982 because of a bad economy and several other Duke Energy generating facilities came online around that time, Sipe said. The plans were redone and then resubmitted in 2007.
Duke Energy has recently changed its plans to accommodate potential droughts, based on the last few years of dry weather, Sipe said.
A new pond proposed for the site would be 620 surface acres, or about 1/30th the size of Lake Keowee, which has about 18,000 surface acres. The new pond would not be open to the public.
About 35 million gallons of water a day would be evaporated as steam if the plant comes online and another 15 million gallons would be used for cooling but would return to the river, Sipe said, citing environmental reports prepared by Duke.
Sipe said the proposed site would be using about two percent of the water going through the Broad River. The bulk of the water that the Cherokee site would use would come from the Ninety-Nine Island reservoir.
The reservoir is connected to Lake Murray, which will be used by the Fairfield County nuclear site.
Gore said Lake Murray should provide enough water, so plans for the Fairfield site were not changed because of the drought.
The biggest nuclear plant in the state, both in production and size, is in Oconee County and uses Lake Keowee as its water source.